Vitamin E and Selenium May Increase the Risk of Prostate Cancer

The October 12 Journal of the American Medical Association reports a slight increase in the risk of prostate cancer from vitamin E and selenium. The increase from selenium is not considered statistically significant. Vitamin E’s increase just met the criteria and is considered more likely to be real. This increase in risk, for both agents, is important in that they were being evaluated as preventatives. They obviously don’t work.

This report includes 54 464 additional person-years of follow-up and 521 additional cases of prostate cancer since the primary report. Compared with the placebo (referent group) in which 529 men developed prostate cancer, 620 men in the vitamin E group developed prostate cancer (hazard ratio [HR], 1.17; 99% CI, 1.004-1.36, P = .008); as did 575 in the selenium group (HR, 1.09; 99% CI, 0.93-1.27; P = .18), and 555 in the selenium plus vitamin E group (HR, 1.05; 99% CI, 0.89-1.22, P = .46). Compared with placebo, the absolute increase in risk of prostate cancer per 1000 person-years was 1.6 for vitamin E, 0.8 for selenium, and 0.4 for the combination.

Medicynical Note: This is not stunning news as vitamin and mineral supplements have little efficacy–unless there is dietary deficiency. Perhaps our pill popping culture will take note.

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