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Association between higher vitamin E intake and lower pancreatic cancer risk affirmed by meta-analysis

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015. The result of a meta-analysis published in the May 1, 2015, issue of Medical Science Monitor indicates a protective effect for a greater intake of vitamin E against the risk of pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

"In humans, free radicals, which result from polyunsaturated fatty acids reacting with oxygen in the lipid membranes, might be essential for the occurrence of tumors," write Lujian Peng and colleagues in their introductory remarks. "Vitamin E is an effective antioxidant that prevents the occurrence of some tumors by protecting cells and DNA from free radical damage. Whether vitamin E, as an antioxidant, could reduce the incidence of pancreatic cancer has been under consideration."

For the analysis, Dr Peng and associates selected six case-control studies and four cohort studies that provided data on the vitamin E intake of a total of 2,976 pancreatic cancer patients and 253,431 controls. A 19% lower risk of pancreatic cancer was observed among participants who had a higher intake of vitamin E in comparison with those whose intake was low.

As possible mechanisms for vitamin E in cancer protection, the authors note that its antioxidant property helps prevent DNA damage by scavenging lipid peroxyl radicals and increasing the activity of the body's antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Vitamin E may also enhance immune response and decrease the activity of pathways involved in cancer growth.

"In our meta-analysis, there was an inverse association between vitamin E intake and the risk of pancreatic cancer," they conclude. "A high level of vitamin E might be a protective factor for populations at risk for pancreatic cancer."

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