Warning to Men Who Take Excessive Vitamin B

Francis Osborne
August 24, 2017

One study will examine associations in post-menopausal women in order to confirm the current finding of no elevated risk in women.

Current smokers who reported 10-year use of vitamin B6 at doses greater than 20 mg per day appeared almost three times as likely to develop lung cancer as nonusers (HR = 2.93; 95% CI, 1.5-5.72). This finding of increased risk appeared to be specific to men who were current smokers.

First, the topline numbers: The study was an observational one rather than a randomized control trial, the latter of which is considered to be the "gold standard" of clinical studies.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the risk was increased even more in smokers who took more than 20 mg of B6 or 55 micrograms of B12 a day for a decade: Men who smoked on B6 at this level had triple the chance of getting lung cancer, while those on B12 had 4x the odds, compared to non-B users.

New research suggests long-term, high-dose supplementation with vitamins B6 and B12 - long touted by the vitamin industry for increasing energy and improving metabolism - is associated with a two- to four-fold increased lung cancer risk in men relative to non-users. The participants were from the Vitamins And Lifestyle cohort, which was set up to evaluate vitamin and mineral supplements and their relationship with cancer over the longer-term.

The results showed that among women, there was no correlation between supplemental B6, B9, and B12 and lung cancer risk.

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When Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Brasky, he said, "Unlike most other studies (particularly at the time), we obtained information on supplement frequency of use, duration of use, and dose commonly used in the 10 years prior to the beginning of the study". Furthermore, some public health experts note it's possible that cancer itself can change the vitamin levels in the blood.

Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC - James), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and National Taiwan University report their findings in the August 22, 2017 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The link between B vitamins and lung cancer was only evident in those taken from individual supplementation, not those which were included as part of a multivitamin.

The study tracked 77,000 patients age 50 to 76 for more than 10 years.

"As far as the magnitude of the association, I think you could characterize our reaction as concerned; especially if you consider how common these supplements are". Vitamins B-6 and B-12 may just "hasten or increase the likelihood of lung carcinogenesis among male smokers". Combustible tobacco smoke is the main cause of lung cancer and indeed many cancers and chronic diseases.

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