Fitness Article of the Month
March 1998

For those of you who havent seen this major study, here it is. Thanks to Carol Krucoff and the Washington Post for this informative article. The article deals with the right combination of nutrients and exercise for increasing and maintaining bone density throughout different stages of life. It's nice to see weight bearing exercise and resistance training recognized as an important part of the prescription. Until next month, keep healthy.

Best of Health,

Study: Vitamin E reduces prostate cancer risk, deaths

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Daily doses of Vitamin E reduced prostate cancer risk by a third and the disease's death rate by 41 percent in a study of thousands of smokers.

"This study for the first time really gives us that ray of hope that with something simple like a vitamin supplement, in this case a vitamin E supplement at a relatively modest dosage, that we can actually intervene, can actually hope to prevent prostate cancer," said study co-author Dr. Demetrius Albanes.

The study, which was conducted in Finland, also found that a form of vitamin A had no effect on reducing cancer. A report on the findings will be published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Both vitamin E and beta carotene, the form of vitamin A used, are antioxidants -- compounds which may prevent cancer-causing agents from damaging cells.

However, only vitamin E appears to give a statistically significant protection against cancer, said Albanes, a National Cancer Institute researcher who participated in the study with researchers from the University of Helsinki.

In fact, the data suggest that beta carotene users in the study were about 16 percent more likely to develop lung cancer. That result startled many researchers when it was first reported three years ago because beta carotene was expected to be proved as a cancer preventive.

2nd most common form of cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men behind skin cancer. It affects almost 80 percent of men over age 65, although many of them carry the disease undetected. Those undetected, or latent, cancers are sometimes discovered incidentally or at autopsy. But latent tumors can become more serious, and that is where vitamin E proved to be a factor.

"We blocked the progression from those small latent, subclinical tumors to a full-blown, clinically detected and problematic prostate cancer," Albanes said.

The exact mechanism by which vitamin E reduces prostate cancer is not clear. There are a number of possibilities. Vitamin E affects all cell membranes and may inhibit the reproduction of cells. It may stimulate the immune system or alter sex hormones. It also plays a role in cell death and the maturation of cells, and it protects the pathways that rid the body of toxins.

Earlier research by Dr. Ishwarlal Jialal, of the University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, has shown that vitamin E helps reduce heart disease and has other health benefits. He called the finding about prostate cancer "a very significant observation" and said "it needs to be confirmed by another group study, especially among nonsmokers."

Nearly 30,000 Finnish men took part in study

The Finnish study involved 29,133 male smokers between age 50 and 69 who were selected to take part in a lung cancer study evaluating the effects of beta carotene and vitamin E on smokers. The men were divided into four groups: One group took beta carotene supplements; another took vitamin E; a third took a combination of the two; and the last group took a placebo. The vitamin E dosage was 50 milligrams a day -- about five times the recommended minimum daily intake for men and 2 1/2 times what most people get from food, Albanes said.

After five to eight years of taking the supplements, the 14,564 men taking vitamin E alone or with beta carotene had 32 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer than the 14,569 not taking vitamin E.

In addition, there were 41 percent fewer prostate cancer deaths among men taking vitamin E.

However, taking the vitamin E supplement was not risk-free, Albanes said. Among those taking the vitamin, there were 66 deaths from a cerebral hemorrhage, or bleeding, type of stroke, compared with 44 such deaths among the men not taking vitamin E.

"Vitamin E is known to have some effect on blood clotting," Albanes said.

Although the finding about vitamin E is encouraging, it is premature to recommend that everyone start taking vitamin E supplements, Albanes said, adding that there needs to be another long-term study involving nonsmokers and people of different races and ethic backgrounds.

Men who have had vasectomies, farmers, workers in the rubber industry, men exposed to the metal cadmium and smokers all may have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, although the reason why is not clear.

Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This Fitness article is for educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health-care professionals. Consult your physician before beginning or making changes in your diet, supplements or exercise program, for diagnosis and treatment of illness and injuries, and for advice regarding medications. Thanks. RM

Copyright 2001, Ron McConnell. All rights reserved.
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