LOS ANGELES – Taking vitamin E and selenium supplements not only failed to prevent prostate cancer in men, a new study finds that daily vitamin E pills appear to raise the risk of the disease.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is yet another reminder that the effect of dietary supplements on health isn’t always rewarding or even innocuous.
The SELECT study (which stands for Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) began in 2001 and recruited more than 35,000 men age 50 and older at 400 study sites nationwide. The participants were randomized to take 200 micrograms of selenium daily, 400 international units of vitamin E daily, both supplements or placebo pills.
In 2008, the trial was stopped because it was clear that there was no reduction in prostate cancer risk related to supplementation. About half of the participants have had their health monitored via questionnaires, however, and analysis of that data showed a 17 percent increase in prostate cancer cases among men who took vitamin E compared with those on a placebo.
The study findings “underscore the need for consumers to be skeptical of health claims for unregulated over-the-counter products in the absence of strong evidence of benefit demonstrated in clinical trials.”