Do Supplements Increase Risk of Cancer?

Do Supplements Increase Risk of Cancer?

prostrate-health-psa-testWhen we take vitamins with our breakfast each morning, we have been trained to assume that what we are ingesting is overall a good thing for our health. Whether it is Vitamin C, Vitamin D or other nutrients and supplements found in multi-vitamins, we have always been under the assumption that we are off to a good start each morning. But what would you do if you found out the same supplements and vitamins that you have been taking to improve your health will actually work against you? There was a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that is suggesting that high doses of selenium and Vitamin E could actually increase your chances of developing prostate cancer.

The Study

The idea that the selenium and Vitamin E supplements working against you depends on what your selenium levels are before taking these supplements. The first author listed on the study, Dr. Alan Kristal, is from the Public Health Sciences Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center located in Seattle, Washington. In this study, Kristal and company examined 1,739 patients that were already diagnosed with prostate cancer and another 3,117 people from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, or SELECT.

Previous study and research found that men who had adequate levels of selenium would not benefit from the consumption of additional selenium. For this study, researchers took a selenium reading from the toenails of the patients to give the study a baseline figure. The main idea behind this study was to determine if taking higher daily doses of Vitamin E along with selenium would reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

What is Selenium and What Does it Help With?

Selenium is a mineral which is normally found in soil. It is a mineral that naturally appears in water and some foods and while the human body only needs a little bit to boost metabolism. One major reason why selenium levels are so important to the body aside from boosting metabolism is the mineral also has antioxidant qualities which are meant to help prevent damage to cells. In the past, selenium was considered a mineral that could be used to prevent prostate cancer, but as this latest study shows, it doesn’t always work as advertised. There is also some reports that selenium seems to increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer and plays no role whatsoever in developing lung or colon cancer.

We mentioned that you can get selenium naturally from water and some foods, but we didn’t cover what foods it could be found in. It is most commonly found in organ meats like liver and seafood. You can also get the mineral in cereals, meats and some dairy items.

According to the National Institutes of Health, selenium is important for reproduction, DNA synthesis and thyroid hormone metabolism. It is also important in protecting your body against oxidative damage and infection. The recommended daily allowance for men and women above the age of 14 is 55mcg.

What was the Role of SELECT in Study?

SELECT was first formed in 2001 and was originally planned to be in business for a dozen years. Just seven years into the program, it was stopped because they had found no protective effects from the selenium or Vitamin E supplements that were believed to be a cause of prostate cancer. Even after the men stopped taking the supplements in 2008, the researchers from SELECT would still follow the men and check their risk of prostate cancer.

What SELECT found in doing this was that the men who had high levels of selenium to start with had an astonishing 91 percent likelier chance of being diagnosed with high-grade prostate cancer. The selenium levels in these men reached toxic levels and worked against their body instead of helping.  Even those that had low selenium levels at the start of the SELECT trial weren’t safe from the increased supplement intake. The men with lower levels of selenium had their chance of prostate cancer being diagnosed increased by 63 percent because of the Vitamin E, while the chance of developing high-grade prostate cancer increased by 111 percent.

Kristal feels so adamant about the negative effects of these supplements that he would suggest to those still taking them to stop. He said that they don’t improve or provide any health benefits to its users; rather it only brings on increased risks. In recent months, we have heard about how multi-vitamins aren’t as beneficial to our health as advertised and Kristal feels that these vitamins could bring on harm in high doses.

Essentially, what this latest study is telling us is that we need to be more cautious and do more research on the items that are being advertised to improve our health. They don’t all work this way and in most cases, more harm than good will be caused by their ingestion.

>Learn more about prostate cancer

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