Cancer vitamin and mineral supplements

Dietary antioxidants

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that insufficient amounts of antioxidants can increase the risk of cancer. In groups of people who have low levels of these nutrients, the cancer rates are higher. Vitamin C is the body's most powerful water soluble antioxidant while vitamin E and carotenes are lipid soluble. Antioxidants neutralize metabolic products, including free radicals; prevent carcinogens from attacking DNA and cell membranes; inhibit chromosome aberrations; restrain replication of transformed cells; suppress actions of cancer promoters; and induce regression of pre-cancerous lesions. Antioxidants can also boost immunity and counter the immune-suppressive effects of oxidized cholesterol and other substances, and may also slow or halt the growth of tumorsby enhancing communication between cells, and stimulating the activity of the immune system.

Cancer vitaminCancer Vitamin A     

Many studies suggest that high blood levels of vitamin A can help prevent certain forms of cancer, particularly cancers of epithelial tissues, such as the lung, mouth, stomach, colon, cervix and uterus. Vitamin Aplays an important role in the growth and differentiation of cells, strengthening the immune system and suppressing cell transformation into cancerous cells. Vitamin A deficiency- related changes resemble cancer in these cells.

Breast cancer

Breast tissue may be particularly sensitive to the rumor-suppressive action of vitamin A. In a study published in 1997, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health compared the concentrations of various forms of vitamin A in the breast fat tissue from 46 cancer patients and 63 women with benign breast lumps. They found an increased risk of disease in those with low levels of vitaminA. Results of a 1997 study suggest that the development of lung cancer may be due to a decreased ability of cells to respond to vitamin A-related compounds known as retinoids. When researchers at the University of Texas looked at the lung tissue from 79 patients with lung cancer and 17 without lung cancer they found that all the healthy cells carried receptors that bound retinoids. However, only 42 to 76 per cent of the cancerous cells had this ability. Of the six different types of retinoid receptors, three were found at lower levels in cancer cells. This study raises the possibility that increasing dietary intake of vitamin A or taking supplements can be used to reduce the risk of lung cancer.


Many population studies have suggested that diets high in carotenes can protect against several types of cancer including those of the cervix, ovaries, uterus, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, lung, prostate and breast. Other types of studies have shown that cancer victims often have lower carotenoid levels than healthy individuals.

In a study published in 1991, researchers investigated the links between beta carotene and cancer in New Zealand families. The study involved 389 people diagnosed with cancer and 391 hospital patients without cancer. They nlso assessed the family members of the study participants to compensate for the fact that changes in beta carotene levels may have occurred after the cancer developed. Low levels of beta carotene were found in people with a number of cancers, including those of the lung, stomach, esophagus, small intestine, cervix, and uterus. Low levels of beta carotene were also found in the relatives of these cancer patients. The strongest findings were those for lung cancer. In this study patients with cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, and skin did not have lower levels of beta carotene and neither did their families. The results of this study suggest that the cancer sites associated with low levels of beta carotene are, in general, sites for which smoking is a strong risk factor.

Lung cancer

Several population studies have investigated the links between lower levels of carotenes and lung cancer. In a study published in 1998, researchers at Johns Hopkins University measured nutrient levels in blood samples from 258 patients with lung cancer and compared these with those in samples from 515 people free of cancer. Blood concentrations of cryptoxanthin, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin were significantly lower among the cancer patients. Small differences were noticed for alpha carotene and lycopene.

In a 1994 study, researchers compared the diets of 413 non-smokers suffering from lung cancer with those of 413 people without cancer. The results showed that high dietary intake of fruit and vegetables and beta carotene was linked to a decreased risk of lung cancer in both men and women.

Breast cancer

In a study published in 1998, researchers in Missouri examined blood levels of various nutrients in women who developed breast cancer after donating blood to a bank over a ten year period. They then compared these levels to women who were free of cancer. They found lower levels of the carotenes beta cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin in patients who developed breast cancer. In a study published in 1996, Italian researchers investigated the relationship between selected nutrients and breast cancer risk in 2569 women with the disease and 2588 women with no history of cancer. The results showed significantly less risk in women with high beta carotene intakes.

In a 1994 study published in the British Journal of Cancer, West Australian researchers investigated the effect of increased intake of beta carotene on survival in breast cancer patients. Over a six-year period, only one death occurred in the group with the highest consumption of beta carotene, while there were eight and 12 deaths in the intermediate and lowest groups of consumption respectively.

In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1996, researchers examined the links between dietary intake of carotenes ( including nonfood supplements), and premenopausal breast cancer. The study involved 297 premenopausal women 40 years of age or older who were diagnosed with breast cancer from November 1986 to April 1991.

Thesewere compared with 311 women without cancer. The results showed a reduction in risk associated with high intake of several nutrients including beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Prostate cancer High beta carotene intakes may improve survival in those with prostate cancer, according to results from the Chicago Western Electric Study published in 1996. The study involved 1899 middle-aged men who were followed for a total of 30 years. During that time, 132 men developed prostate cancer and survival was found to be less likely in those with low beta carotene intakes.

Lycopene-rich tomatoes seem to be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer. In a study published in 1995, researchers at Harvard Medical School assessed the links between diet during a one-year period, and prostate cancer in almost 48,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They found that men who ate more foods such as tomatoes, pizza and tomato sauce which are high in lycopene were less likely to be at risk of prostate cancer.

Colon cancer

In a 1997 study done in Italy, researchers assessed carotenoid levels in four healthy patients, seven patients with pre-cancerous lesions and seven patients with colon cancer. They found significantly lower carotenoid levels in the cancer patients.

Cervical cancer

Population studies suggest that low carotenoid levels, including beta carotene may increase the risk of cervical cancer. In a 1993 study, researchers examined the relationship between cervical cancer and carotenoid levels in 15,161 women who donated blood in 1974. Over the next 16 years, 50 women developed cancer. The blood samples of these women were compared with those from 50 women free of cancer and the results showed that the levels of total carotenes, alpha carotene, beta carotene, cryptoxanthin, and lycopene were significantly lower among cancer cases than they were among controls. Laboratory studies show that beta carotene can slow the growth of cervical cancer cells. I ncreasing intake of beta carotene may help to overcome this tissue-specific deficiency.

Cancer vitaminCancer Vitamin C

People with high vitamin C intakes seem to have a reduced risk of almost all forms of cancer. The protective effect seems to be strongest for cancers of the esophagus, larynx, mouth and pancreas. Vitamin C also seems to provide some protection against cancers of the cervix, liver, stomach, rectum, breast and lungs. However, in many of these studies it is not possible to tell whether the protective effect is due to vitamin C, vitamin E, or carotene, to a combined effect of these nutrients, or even due to additional substances found in food Results from the Western Electric Study published in 1995 suggest a link between low vitamin C levels and death from cancer. The researchers obtained information on diet and other factors from 1556 employed, middle-aged men. During the follow-up period, 231 men died from cancer. The results showed that those with the highest vitamin C and beta carotene intakes were 40 per cent less likely to die of cancer than those with the lowest intakes.

Prostate cancer

Vitamin C seems to improve survival in those with prostate cancer. Researchers involved in the Western Electric Study examined the links between dietary beta carotene and vitamin C and the risk of prostate cancer in 1899 middle-aged men over a 30-year period. During this time, prostate cancer developed in 132 men. The results showed that associations between vitamin C intake and risk of prostate cancer differed depending on whether the cancer was diagnosed during the first 19 years of follow-up or the next 11 years of follow-up. Overall, higher intakes of vitamin C and beta carotene were linked to improved survival.

Lung cancer

Vitamin C may also help to protect against lung cancer. Researchers involved in a 1997 study obtained dietary information from 561 men from the Dutch townof Zutphen,in 1960,1965,and 1970. During the period from 1971 to 1990, 54 new cases of lung cancer were identified and analysis of the diets of the men showed an increased risk of lung cancer in those with lower fruit and vegetable and vitamin C intakes.

Stomach cancer

Results from a study published in 1995 suggest that low vitamin C intake is linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. In the 1960s, researchers collected detailed dietary information and in 1987, they assessed average food intakes. They then examined the links between this information and death from stomach cancer. The results showed that the average intake of vitamin C was strongly related to the risk of stomach cancer. However, vitamin C intake was not related to the risk of lung and colorectal cancer in this study. Other studies have shown similar results.

Colon cancer

In a study published in 1992, researchers investigated the links between fruits and vegetables and vitamin C intake in ll,580 residents of a retirement community who entered the study free from cancer. During the period from 1981 to 1989 a total of 1335 cases of cancer were diagnosed. The results showed a decreased risk of colon cancer in women with higher vitamin C intakes. Supplemental use of vitamins A and C also showed a protective effect on colon cancer risk in women.

I n a 1994 study, Italian researchers investigated the relationship between estimated intake of certain nutrients, including vitamin C, and the risk of disease in 828 patients with colon cancer, 498 with rectal cancer and 2024 people without cancer. Those in the highest intake group for vitamin C had a 60 per cent lower risk of cancer than those in the low intake group.

Breast cancer

The results of a 1994 study suggest that women with high vitamin C intakes have a lower chance of dying of breast cancer than those with the low intakes. the study involved 678 women who were diagnosed with the disease from Jawary 1982 through June 1992. However, results from the Nurses Health Study did not show a protective effect against the disease.

Cancer vitaminCancer Vitamin E

Several population studies show that low levels of vitamin E are linked to the development of certain cancers, including those of the mouth, liver, lung, colon, rectum, cervix and breast.

•Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract Results from the Iowa Women's Health Study show that high intakes of ant ioxidants including vitamin E are linked to lower risks of colon, oral, pharyngeal, esophageal and gastric cancers. As part of the study, the results of which were published in 1993, researchers analyzed the links between vitamin E and colon cancer in 35,215 women aged 55 to 69 years without a history of cancer.

During the follow-up period, there were 212 cases of colon cancer. The results showed that low vitamin E intake increased the risk of colon cancer, with thosein the high intake group having 30 per cent of the risk of those in the low intake group. The protective factor was stronger in the younger women.

Breast cancer

Some studies suggest that low vitamin E levels increase the risk of breast cancer.

I n a study published in 1992, researchers investigated the relationship between blood levels of various nutrients including vitamin E, and the risks of breast cancer and proliferative benign breast disease (BBD) in postmenopausal women, Women who had a high intake of vitamin E from food sources only, had around 60 per cent less risk of breast cancer compared to those in the low intake group. However, not all studies have shown protective effects.

Cervical cancer

In a 1990 study, Utah University researchers investigating the relationship between cervical cancer and dietary intake of antioxidant vitamins and selenium in 266 women with cervical cancer and 408 women without the disorder found that women with high vitamin E intakes had a 40 per cent lower risk of cervical cancer. Blood levels of vitamin E have also been found to be low in women with cervical cancer.

Lung cancer

High vitamin E intakes may decrease the risk of lung cancer. In 1974 and 1975. researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, collected blood samples from 25,802 volunteers. They assessed vitamin E levels in samples from 436 cancer cases and 765 matched control subjects. The results showed that high vitamin E levels protected against lung cancer.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K injections are often given to babies after birth to reduce the risk of internal bleeding. In the early 1990s, researchers reported a possible increase in the risk of childhood cancers in those who were given these injections. However, the results of studies are inconclusive. This link was examined in four studies published in the British MedicalJournal in 1998. The results of two of the four studies suggest that there is no association between vitamin K injections and cancer; one could not exclude the possibility; and the fourth suggested a possible increase in the risk of leukemia.

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