Did the SELECT study show that vitamin E causes prostate cancer?

Dr. Dwight L. McKee, MD
Hematologist & Oncologist

A large study sponsored by the US government, known as the SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) study, may have given some people the impression that vitamin E supplements cause prostate cancer. But that is far from proven. In the study, men who took very large doses of a form of vitamin E called dl-alpha-tocopherol-acetate had a slightly increased risk for developing prostate cancer. But that doesn't necessarily mean vitamin E supplements are bad for you.

Like all nutrients, vitamin E works in a complex network with other nutrients. If you eat a lousy diet that's full of processed foods and low in fruit, vegetables and other good stuff, large doses of vitamins are unlikely to be of any benefit and might even cause some harm. Meanwhile, small doses of a form of vitamin E called d-alpha-tocopherol succinate have been linked to a low risk for prostate cancer. Clearly, we still have much to learn about vitamin E and its relationship with prostate cancer.

If you take vitamin E supplements for any reason, tell your doctor. If you aren't sure which form of vitamin E you take, bring the container to your doctor or pharmacist and ask.

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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.