Vitamin E has long been thought to be extremely beneficial for patients suffering from a range of different cancers, including prostate cancer. However, recent research has shown that not only is Vitamin E not beneficial at reducing the risk of prostate cancer, Vitamin E has been shown to put men at an increased risk of it.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States according to the American Cancer Society’s 2012 Cancer Facts and Figures. There are over 241,000 predicted cases in 2012 and approximately 28,000 people are expected to die from this disease. The rate of this disease has overtaken both lung cancer and breast cancer in prevalence rates. Because of the amount of cases diagnosed each and every year, more and more studies are looking into how to reduce the risk of developing it.

Vitamin E

The term Vitamin E refers to a group of 8 fat-soluble antioxidants that help to protect the body against cell damage. It is naturally found in foods such as sunflower oil, olive oil, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts and green leafy vegetables such as spinach. Regular multivitamins normally contain Vitamin E in the 30-40 international unit dose (IUD) range. Supplements containing 400 or even higher IUD of Vitamin E are in the mega-dose range.


In October of 2011, a review of the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This study included 35,000 men over the age of 50 in three different countries and was ceased after seven years when the expected benefit of Selenium and Vitamin E was not seen. The participants were divided into four different groups: Selenium and Vitamin E, Selenium and placebo, Vitamin E and placebo and two placebos. These groups were made up for comparison purposes and to ensure that it was a double-blind study.

Study Findings

Follow-up health questionnaires that half of the above group chose to participate in have shown a statistically significant increase in the group taking 400 IUD of Vitamin E. In fact, men who have taken the mega-dose of Vitamin E were found to have rates of prostate cancer 17% higher than those who took a placebo. For every 1,000 study participants in the Vitamin E group, there were 76 reported cases of prostate cancer. The placebo group reported 65 cases in the same sample size. These differences are unlikely due to chance circumstances alone.

Study Conclusions

Further study is needed to include all of the group’s original participants to determine if these same results hold true across the entire group. Mega-doses of Vitamin E are not recommended at this time, as there are no documented benefits and there may very well be an increased risk of prostate cancer diagnoses. There are already many follow-up studies being conducted to determine why Vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancers, including studying baseline levels and DNA research of a possible genetic link.

High doses of Vitamin E have not been shown to reduce the prevalence of prostate cancer. One large, scientific, international study has shown an increased risk in patients who take these mega-doses of Vitamin E. Consequently, doctors and researchers recommend not taking high doses of Vitamin E at this time.

Guest Article Provided by Kevin Clarke, a Pharmacist who recently started – a consumer health website dedicated to providing drug and side effects information.