Vitamin supplement may help prevent prostate cancer
May 19, 1997
Web posted at: 2:35 p.m. EDT (1835 GMT)
From Reporter Liz Weiss
BOSTON (CNN) -- Taking beta carotene supplements may lower
the risk of prostate cancer in some men, according to early
results from an ongoing study of more than 22,000 men who
took either beta carotene or a placebo for 12 years.
"Those assigned to beta carotene supplements over the course
of the trial had 36 percent fewer prostate cancers develop,"
said Dr. Charles H. Hennekens of Brigham & Women's Hospital
The men who took the supplement and showed the most benefit
were those who had low levels of the vitamin present in their
blood to begin with.
"The possibility is raised that those who have low blood
levels through poor nutrition might benefit from beta
carotene supplements," said Hennekens. "That's a research
question we need to answer."
Food rich in beta carotene include carrots, spinach and other
dark green vegetables. This study used beta carotene
supplements rather than food.
While the researchers say the finding on beta carotene and
prostate cancer is intriguing, they're by no means in a
position right now to recommend beta carotene supplements to
What experts do suggest for cancer prevention in general is a
diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, and one rich in
fruits and vegetables.
"The benefits from the healthier diet are far larger and more
apparent," said Hennekens. "The benefits from supplements
are somewhat smaller and not yet proven beyond a reasonable
An earlier study of poorly nourished people in rural China
found supplementation with beta carotene lowered the risk of
stomach cancer. That, plus this new study, may ultimately
show that beta carotene supplements could be helpful in the
prevention of prostate cancer for those who don't eat right.
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