For many, Vitamin E is beneficial and therefore, their use as a regular supplement.
In spite of the absence of proven advantages, antioxidant vitamins are widely used for prolonged periods of time and at high doses by healthy people, those at risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer, and by individuals with cancer.
People tend to rationalize that Vitamin E protects the body from the toxic effects of radiation. As a result, many people take Vitamin E during radiation therapy, hoping it will reduce potential side effects, and often, without informing their physicians.
To test this notion, a clinical trial was conducted in Canada. Its results were published recently in The International Journal of Cancer. Five hundred forty patients with early stage cancer of the head and neck who were to undergo radiation therapy were the subjects of the study.
Head and neck cancer originates in the area of the head and neck and includes malignant tumors of the mouth, throat, voice box, sinuses and lymph glands in the neck. The standard of care for cancer of the head and neck often includes radiation therapy, as well as surgery and chemotherapy.
Nearly half of the patients received 400 IU (International Units) of Vitamin E and the other half received placebo, an inactive substance. The people in the former group continued to use Vitamin E for three years after radiation therapy. Patients were followed for a total of six and a half years.
The results of the study were astonishing and revealed not only that Vitamin E was not beneficial, but in fact, was associated with a nearly 40 percent increase in the risk of death when compared to those counterparts who received a placebo.
The researchers conclude that is Vitamin E is not protective, and in fact, it might actually be harmful to patients with head and neck cancer who are receiving radiation therapy.
Vitamin E falls into the category of anti-oxidants. Theoretically, the adverse outcome can be attributed to Vitamin E having a paradoxical effect, that is, instead of serving as an anti-oxidant, Vitamin E might have promoted oxidation; by displacing other antioxidants within the cells of the body, these cells might have become more vulnerable to damage from oxidation.
People who are undergoing radiation therapy should inform their physicians of all non-prescription medications and supplements they are taking. The good news is that doctors can then counsel patients wisely as to which products may be used safely.