A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

“B” careful: Certain vitamins linked to lung cancer

Multi-vitamin pills spilling out of bottle onto table - Can too many vitamins cause lung cancer?

Vitamins B6 and B12 may be linked to lung cancer in men.

According to research, men who take B vitamins in high doses are at higher risk of developing lung cancer.

“Use of vitamin B6 and B12 from individual supplement sources, but not from multivitamins, was associated with a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in lung cancer risk among men,” according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. “When the 10-year average supplement dose was evaluated, there was an almost two-fold increase in lung cancer risk among men in the highest categories of vitamin B6 and B12 compared with nonusers.”

These specific B vitamins are not associated with an increased lung cancer risk in women, the study said. The study said men who are smokers and are taking these vitamins showed an even higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Dr. Dean Delmastro, a Marshfield Clinic oncologist/hematologist, said the issue is with men taking very high doses of these particular B vitamins – more than what you would find in an average multivitamin.

How are they linked?

Why this link between vitamins B6 and B12 and lung cancer exists, or even how definitive the results of this study are, remain open questions. Other research has disputed the link between these vitamins and lung cancer. If it is indeed these vitamins responsible for the increase in lung cancer, Delmastro suggested a reason why.

Probably it modifies, at least in smokers, some of the pathways in which carcinogens are metabolized,” Delmastro said. “In my view, however, smokers should not be taking anything other than, at most, a standard, one-a-day multivitamin.”

Delmastro said unless there is a specific medical reason you need to take high doses of specific B vitamins, you should avoid doing so. He added that not smoking is the most important thing you can do to avoid lung cancer.

“I think anyone concerned about this issue should talk to their primary care provider, especially if they’re a smoker,” Delmastro said.

He added that the more information you can give your medical provider, the better that provider will be able to advise you on living a healthy lifestyle.

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