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Link between common vitamin supplements and lung cancer

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Staff Writer | August 24, 2017
B12 supplements
Discovery   High-dose B6 and B12 supplements

Men, and especially male smokers, appear to be more likely to develop lung cancer if they take high doses of vitamins B6 and B12, new research suggests.

For men taking these vitamin supplements, the risk of lung cancer was nearly doubled.

For men who smoked, the risk was between three and four times higher, the study found.

"High-dose B6 and B12 supplements should not be taken for lung cancer prevention, especially in men, and they may cause harm in male smokers," said study lead author Theodore Brasky. He is a research assistant professor at Ohio State University.

However, the study wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect between the vitamins and lung cancer; it only showed an association.

It's also not clear why only men and current male smokers seem to face an extra risk.

And a trade organization representing the vitamin industry cautioned against reading too much into the study.

Most people in the United States get enough vitamin B6 through their diets, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Some people with certain health conditions may need supplements.

As for vitamin B12, the NIH reports that most Americans get enough from their diet. But some groups - such as older people and vegetarians - may be deficient and need supplements. The vitamin may also cause interactions with medications.

Dietary sources of vitamin B6 and B12 include fortified cereals and foods that are high in protein.

The new study included more than 77,000 adults, aged 50 to 76, in Washington state. The participants were recruited from 2000 to 2002, and answered questions about their vitamin use over the previous 10 years.

The researchers found that just over 800 of the study volunteers developed lung cancer over an average follow-up of six years.

The study found no sign of a link between folate (a type of B vitamin) and lung cancer risk. And vitamin B6 and B12 supplements didn't seem to affect risk in women.


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