Men's health

Vitamins C and E do not reduce the risk of prostate cancer

zone image Do taking vitamins long term reduce your cancer risk?

Taking vitamin E and C supplements do not reduce the risk of prostate cancer or other cancers, according to two large USA studies published online today in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Both studies were carried out to determine whether taking vitamin E and C supplements long-term, reduced the risk of prostate cancer in men as some previous studies had suggested this may be the case.

In the largest trial of it’s kind, over 35,000 men over the age of 50 were recruited from the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico. The volunteers were given the trace mineral selenium, vitamin E or both, or a dummy pill (placebo) for an average of five years.

Researchers found there was no statistically significant difference in the rate of prostate cancer between the three groups given the supplements, compared with those given the placebo. The supplements were found to be similarly ineffective in preventing cardiac disease.

The study was designed to continue for twelve years, but in the absence of any benefit provided by the vitamins, it was stopped earlier.

Lead researcher Dr. Scott Lippman from the University of Texas commented:

(the trial) "has definitively demonstrated that selenium, vitamin E or selenium plus vitamin E did not prevent prostate cancer in the generally healthy, heterogeneous population of men in middle aged and older men. "

In a further study, scientists recorded the occurrence of prostate and other cancers in over 14,000 male doctors aged fifty and over. They were given either vitamin C daily or vitamin E every other day for an average of eight years.

The researchers, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston found that taking vitamin E and C supplements long term did not reduce the risk of prostate cancer or any others including lung, colorectal, bladder, pancreatic, leukaemia or melanoma. They concluded:

“These data provide no support for the use of these supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men”.

Dr Jodie Moffat, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said:

"There are a lot of studies looking at whether vitamin and mineral supplements can reduce the risk of cancer but many of them, like this one, don't support a link.

"This new research means it is even less likely than we previously thought that supplements can protect against prostate cancer.

"Supplements don't substitute for a healthy diet and some studies have shown that they may actually increase the risk of cancer.

"Eating a diet that is high in all types of fruit and vegetables is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals that we need."

This article was published on Wed 10 December 2008

Image © Andrey Ushakov -

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