Research: VAN POPPEL and VAN DEN

Listed in Issue 24

Abstract

VAN POPPEL and VAN DEN BERG, TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands write that substantial attention has been focussed during the last decades upon the prospect that high intake of certain vitamins may confer protection against cancer . The authors update (49 references) the role of a number of promising vitamins in the prevention of cancer.

Background

Methodology

Results

Vitamin A and its analogues play an important role in cellular processes related to carcinogenesis. However, blood levels of vitamin A are under strict control and a high consumption of preformed vitamin A does not appear to be relevant for cancer prevention. Antioxidant vitamins C and E and beta-carotene may have other biological activities apart from free radical trapping which relate to their cancer preventive properties. Mechanisms may include immune stimulation, inhibition of nitrosamine formation, enhancement of cell communication, and influence upon metabolic activation of carcinogens . The epidemiological data for the antioxidant vitamins appear to be promising, but it cannot be ruled out that another factor of combination of factors contained in fruits and vegetables may be responsible for the protective effect. The B vitamin folic acid, currently thought to have an influence upon methylation of DNA and hence upon proto-oncogene expression, appears to be promising and deserves further research. Vitamin D may be relevant to development of colon cancer because of its close links to calcium metabolism which may influence cell proliferation.

Conclusion

: Overall, the research results appear promising; however the first human intervention trials with antioxidant vitamins and human cancer yielded somewhat disappointing results. At this moment, the data appear to be insufficient to make recommendations regarding vitamin supplementation for cancer prevention. However, the results are certainly consistent with the advice that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help to reduce cancer risk.

References

van Poppel G and van den Berg H. Vitamins and cancer. Cancer Lett. 114(1-2): 195-202. Mar 19 1997.

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