Can high iron levels in my body cause cancer?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Elevated iron levels have been linked to cancers. The data remain preliminary, and we still don't completely understand the relationship, but two major theories suggest why this may be the case. First, iron is an oxidant -- agents that promote chemical reactions with oxygen. In contrast to antioxidants such as vitamins C and E that remove free radicals from the body, iron enhances the production of free radicals, which, in turn, seems to be linked to increased levels of cancer. Second, cancer cells appear to demand more iron than other cells. When cancers do develop, the increased iron in the body may fuel them to grow at a faster rate. Although neither theory has been proved, studies in the United States and Finland have shown an increased risk of cancer for people with elevated levels of iron.

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