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Will taking antioxidants prevent lung cancer?

Antioxidants are substances found in food and certain vitamins which are believed to be important in maintaining cell function. The body uses these substances to protect against the damage to tissues that happens over time as a result of normal metabolism (called oxidation). Since this type of damage is linked with increased cancer risk, antioxidant nutrients are thought by many to protect against cancer. They are also believed to prevent damage to cells that may occur in response to substances known to cause cancer such as exposure to tobacco smoke.

Common dietary antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. None of these vitamins have been shown to reduce lung cancer risk; and in the case of beta-carotene and vitamin A, it is recommended that high dose supplements not be taken as they may actually increase the risk of developing cancer (beta-carotene) or dying from cancer (vitamin A).

Flavonoids are another group of naturally occurring substances found in all fruits and vegetables, with especially high levels found in berries, apples, and onions. Several studies have indicated that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of lung cancer in people who smoke. However, there also studies suggesting there is no beneficial effect of flavonoids in lowering the risk of lung cancer. Clinical studies of antioxidant supplements are currently under way, but have not yet proven to reduce cancer risk. The best advice at this time is to get your antioxidants through food sources, rather than supplements.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.