Translational Medicine

Supplement-Size Doses of Antioxidants Hasten Lung Cancer Progression

It is an article of faith among many health-conscious individuals that antioxidants are good for you – an article of faith that leads to a lot of vitamin sales. And in the typical “more is better” rationale that fuels many of those sales in the first place, most supplements provide many times the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA).

For example, “virtually every vitamin E supplement will give you at least fourfold the recommended daily dose for humans,” Per Lindahl told reporters at a press conference, and “10 to 15 percent of population is thought to take doses that are 15-20 fold of the RDA.”

But Lindahl and his colleagues at the Swedish University of Gothenburg have found that in mice, two separate antioxidants – the chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) drug N-acetylcysteine and vitamin E – sped up the progression of lung tumors. Animals receiving either compound once they had lung cancer developed more tumors, and those tumors were more aggressive and ultimately killed the animals sooner than control animals who did not receive the vitamin.

The researchers published their findings in the Jan. 30, 2014, issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Vitamin E is touted specifically for its ability to prevent cancer. And those cancer prevention claims may, as a matter of fact, be true.

“Vitamin E might be beneficial for cancer prevention in normal, healthy people,” Martin Bergo told reporters at the press conference. “We are only able to say what happens to an existing tumor when you feed that antioxidant.”

The scientific rationale for why antioxidants should protect against cancer remains sound. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, which damage cells in multiple ways. One of those ways is by inducing DNA damage, which can, beyond a doubt, lead to cancer.

Continue reading to learn more about the clinical trials that have taken place in this field and what the future of COPD looks like. Read more here >>