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February 1, 2012

Prostate Cancer Risk and Vitamin E

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Jody W. Zylke, MD, Senior Editor.

Author Affiliation: Concord, New Hampshire (drgaby@earthlink.net).

JAMA. 2012;307(5):453-454. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.54

To the Editor: The observation by Dr Klein and colleagues1 that treatment with 400 IU/d of α-tocopherol increased the incidence of prostate cancer might be explained by α-tocopherol inducing the depletion of γ-tocopherol. α-Tocopherol is 1 of the 4 forms of vitamin E that occur naturally in food (α-, β-, γ-, and δ-tocopherol). Treatment with large doses of α-tocopherol reduces serum concentrations of γ-tocopherol, thereby upsetting the natural balance of vitamin E isomers in the body.2 Both α- and γ-tocopherol have been found to inhibit the growth of human prostate cancer cells in vitro, but γ-tocopherol was more potent.3 In a case-control study of 10 456 men, higher blood levels of α-tocopherol and γ-tocopherol were each associated with a lower risk of developing prostate cancer, but the association with γ-tocopherol was stronger than that of α-tocopherol.4 In a randomized controlled trial, treatment with a relatively small dose of α-tocopherol (50 IU/d) significantly decreased the incidence of prostate cancer in a group of cigarette smokers.5

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