Study reveals link between vitamin B supplementation and lung cancer

Lung CA seen on CXR

We found that men who took high doses of vitamin B6 and B12 from individual supplements over a long period of time (meaning, doses much higher than the US RDA and much greater than what one would receive from taking a multivitamin over the long term) were at almost 2-fold increased risk of lung cancer compared to men who did not have B6 or B12 intake from any supplemental source.

Male smokers demonstrated the greatest risk. Additional results found that male smokers using vitamin B supplements are much more likely to develop cancer in the lungs.

"As far as the magnitude of the association, I think you could characterize our reaction as concerned; especially if you consider how common these supplements are". Vitamins B6 and B12 are also important for healthy nerve function.

You also don't have to worry if you regularly eat foods high in vitamin B, like chickpeas, clams, tuna, salmon, or red meat. These supplements have been broadly thought to reduce cancer risk.

Response:. Readers need to understand that this research examines the possible relation between B6 and B12 supplements and cancer occurrence in participants who did not have lung cancer at the beginning of the study. To date, results have been inconclusive - this is partly because the trials were rarely randomized, they investigated only short periods of supplementation, and only small numbers of lung cancer cases were involved in the analysis.

For this study, Theodore Brasky, PhD, of the OSUCCC - James, and colleagues analyzed data from more than 77,000 patients participants in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study, a long-term prospective observational study created to evaluate vitamin and other mineral supplements in relation to cancer risk.

The study in the USA led by Ohio State University involved 77,000 people aged between 50 and 76. Upon enrollment, they reported their B-vitamin usage from the previous 10 years, as well as dosage information.


After mean follow-up of 6 years, researchers identified 808 incident invasive lung cancer cases in the cohort. One will try to see whether there are similar effects in post-menopausal women.

Could vitamin B supplements protect against lung cancer?

Theodore Brasky, an epidemiologist in the division of cancer prevention and control at Ohio State, said there might be "a synergism" between smoking, high-dose vitamin B and lung cancer risk in men.

The increased risk persisted for all histologic subtypes of lung cancer except adenocarcinoma, for which researchers observed no association. We were unable to address whether lung cancer patients had improved or worsened prognosis if they took these supplements.

Regular taking of vitamins B6 and B12 in high doses were found to be most affecting smokers, who were found to 3-4 times higher risk of getting lung cancer.

He went on to explain that the "use of combustible tobacco is a far more important factor in lung cancer development in both men and women". The doses are well above the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance.

The researchers, from OSU and the National Taiwan University, found that those who took vitamin B supplements in recommended daily doses over a period of ten years faced 30 to 40 per cent higher risk of lung cancer.

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