Published: Thu, August 24, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

High doses of vitamin B supplements can cause lung cancer in men

High doses of vitamin B supplements can cause lung cancer in men

An increased risk of lung cancer was not seen among women or with the vitamin B9, also known as folate.

The risks of developing lung cancer were even higher for men who take the supplements and also smoke, according to the study, which was published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. "U$3 se of vitamin B6 and B12 from individual supplement sources, but not from multivitamins, was associated with a 30% to 40% increase in lung cancer risk among men", wrote the researchers.

Important note: Because this was an observational study, it can't prove for sure that these vitamin B supplements actually caused lung cancer.

"I think it's hard to say" why these studies contradict each other, said Elizabeth Kantor, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who has studied dietary supplements and cancer risk.

Lead researcher Dr Theodore Brasky, from Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Centre, said: "Our data shows that taking high doses of B6 and B12 over a very long period of time could contribute to lung cancer incidence rates in male smokers".

And a trade organization representing the vitamin industry cautioned against reading too much into the study.

"If you look at B-vitamin supplement bottles. they are anywhere between 50-fold the USA recommended dietary allowance (to) upward of 2,100-fold", Brasky said.

Those limitations include the dependence on the ability of the study population, ages 50-76 years old, to remember and accurately report what they consumed over a ten-year period prior to the start of the study.

For men taking these vitamin supplements, the risk of lung cancer was almost doubled. And taking B vitamins wasn't linked to lung cancer in women at all, either. Notably, smoking seemed to increase the chances of developing the disease significantly more when coupled with vitamin B supplements. "There's simply no scientific backing for these doses", he said. They were 89 percent more likely to get lung cancer than those who didn't take B12.

Paul Brennan, head of the genetics section with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said the study appears to be valid.

"There's a strong belief that vitamins would never harm you". But many high-dose supplements, he said, claim to boost energy and provide other unproven benefits.

"We urge consumers to resist the temptation to allow sensational headlines from this new study to alter their use of B vitamins, especially without further understanding of the nature of this study and a conversation with their healthcare practitioners".

Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and National Taiwan University report their findings in the August 22, 2017 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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