Vitamin E in two forms, gamma and delta-tocopherols found in soybean, canola and corn oils and in nuts do prevent colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers, states new study.
The question of whether vitamin E prevents or promotes cancer has been widely debated in scientific journals and in the news media.
"There are studies suggesting that vitamin E actually increases the risk of cancer and decreases bone density," said Chung S. Yang, director of the Center for Cancer Prevention Research, at Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
"Our message is that the vitamin E form of gamma-tocopherols, the most abundant form of vitamin E in the American diet, and delta-tocopherols, also found in vegetable oils, are beneficial in preventing cancers while the form of vitamin E, alpha- tocopherol, the most commonly used in vitamin E supplements, has no such benefit."
Yang and colleagues, Nanjoo Suh and Ah-Ng Tony Kong discussed animal studies done at Rutgers as well as human epidemiological studies that have examined the connection between vitamin E and cancer.
Yang said Rutgers scientists conducting animal studies for colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer found that the forms of vitamin E in vegetable oils, gamma and delta-tocopherols, prevent cancer formation and growth in animal models.
"When animals are exposed to cancer-causing substances, the group that was fed these tocopherols in their diet had fewer and smaller tumors," Yang said.
"When cancer cells were injected into mice these tocopherols also slowed down the development of tumors."
In researching colon cancer, Yang pointed to another recently published paper that the delta-tocopherol form of vitamin E was more effective than other forms of vitamin E in suppressing the development of colon cancer in rats.
This is good news for cancer research. Recently, in one of the largest prostate cancer clinical trials in the United States and Canada, scientists found that the most commonly used form of vitamin E supplements, alpha-tocopherol, not only did not prevent prostate cancer, but its use significantly increased the risk of this disease among healthy men.
This is why, Yang insisted, it is important to distinguish between the different forms of vitamin E and conduct more research on its cancer preventive and other biological effects.
"For people who think that they need to take vitamin E supplements," Yang said, "taking a mixture of vitamin E that resembles what is in our diet would be the most prudent supplement to take."
The study has been published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.