Vitamin B, taken in high doses, increases a man’s chances of developing lung cancer, according to a new study published Tuesday. While previous research suggests vitamins B6 and B12 can provide some protection against the disease, a new study found taking too much actually escalates the risk of lung cancer, but only in men.
Researchers surveyed over 77,000 people ages 50 to 76 in Washington state. Men who took much more vitamin B than the recommended daily dose over a 10-year period had a higher occurrence of lung cancer than others that consumed a normal or lesser dose. Notably, smoking seemed to increase the chances of developing the disease significantly more when coupled with vitamin B supplements.
“Our study found that consuming high-dose individual B6 and B12 vitamin supplements over a 10-year period is associated with increased lung cancer risk, especially in male smokers,” the researchers wrote in the report, as cited by the Independent. “This is certainly a concern worthy of further evaluation.”
While the study seemed to show a relationship between high doses of vitamin B and lung cancer, some health experts remain skeptical. Dr. Kourosh Ahmadi with Surrey University says it is highly unlikely very many people are taking the vitamins above the recommended daily allowance. Furthermore, he emphasized that the “powerful prospective observational study” really shows that “normal” supplement consumption does not cause cancer.
Cambridge University Professor Paul Pharoah thinks the study conclusions are likely “statistical chance.” While the findings are interesting, previous research could not find a definitive association between lung cancer and vitamin B supplements. The results certainly are not final, he said.
In small quantities, vitamin B helps the body with numerous processes, including DNA replication. However, some companies market dietary supplements high in vitamins B6 and B12 as energy boosters among other benefits. A study done last year revealed the consumption of vitamin B12 supplements increased 40 percent from 1999 to 2012.
“That’s marketing. That’s not science,” said Theodore Brasky, one of the study’s authors, as reported by CNN.
Most people get enough vitamin B in the foods they eat. Supplementation typically isn’t necessary unless another medical condition, like celiac disease, requires it. An average healthy body will flush out any excess, unneeded vitamin B, so taking a higher dose probably doesn’t provide much benefit.
Brasky pointed out that taking a high dose of vitamin B won’t prevent lung cancer if you smoke. While surplus vitamin B may be a factor in developing the disease, smokers are 30 times more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmokers, regardless of dietary supplements.
Until more research is completed, there is no conclusive link between high doses of vitamin B and lung cancer. This recent study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
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