If you are a man, particularly a male smoker, you may be increasing your risk of developing lung cancer by taking B Vitamins like vitamins B6 and B12. In fact, for those men using such supplements, the risk of lung cancer is nearly doubled. The risk is up to four times as high for those who also smoked, according to that same study. Ultimately, if one’s goal is to prevent lung cancer, then it’s best to avoid taking supplements of B6 and B12, especially at high dosage. This advice is given by Theodore Brasky, the research assistant professor at Ohio State University who is also the lead author of the study.
Whether or not these supplements end up causing lung cancer, or just happen to occur in the same patients is still speculation of some debate; in fact, our information is so limited that even the roles of smoking and being male are not perfectly understood when it comes to the development of lung cancer.
What is understood, however, is that the correlation between Vitamins B6 and B12 and cancer seem to focus specifically on supplemental sources of such vitamins, which may also interact poorly with certain medications. Most people have the ability to get enough of those B Vitamins just through the food that they eat; for those who cannot, supplements can help make up the difference. This is especially true of Vitamin B12; vegetarians and others on restricted diets are more likely to be in need of supplements.
Fortified cereals, as well as foods high in protein, are good sources of Vitamins B6 and B12. This explains in part while it may be more difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get enough of such Vitamins from their food alone. As for the study, Almost 80,000 seniors between the ages of 50 and 76 were surveyed in between the years 2000 and 2002. They were asked questions pertaining to their use of vitamins over the previous 10 years.
Of that nearly 80,000, 800 participants or so developed lung cancer in about six years of following up- a result that did not link the B Vitamin Folate and lung cancer. Furthermore, the B6 and B12 supplement usage had no effect on the women in terms of lung cancer risk. This was not the case for the men; among those who took over 20 milligrams of B6 daily over that 10 year period, there was an increased risk of developing lung cancers as great as 82 percent in comparison to those men who did not take supplemental B Vitamins of any kind.
Furthermore, it seems that the more in terms of B12 Vitamins that the men took, created a similar increase in risk. For those who took more than 55 micrograms, there was an increased risk of lung cancer as great us 98 percent comparatively. These results were further compounded in the cases of men who were smoking at the beginning of the study period; In fact, they had nearly four times the odds of developing lung cancer.
This information is problematic when you consider the dosages that B Vitamin supplements come in. Vitamin B6 tends to come in 100-milligram tablets, while Vitamin B12 tablets tend to vary between the wide range of 500 and 3000 micrograms. This means that even one tablet of Vitamin B6 or B12 a week could potentially spell lung problems for men, particularly if they are smokers.
Multivitamins tend to supply no more than 100 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA. The RDA for B6 is less than 2 milligrams, and for B12, it is around 2.4 micrograms. There’s a huge difference between the values of B6 and B12 as part of a multivitamin vs independent dosage, and these dosage differences can lead to adverse effects.
As mentioned early, their correlation between higher dosages of these vitamins and the risk of lung cancer is not entirely understood. Some hypothesizes regarding this matter focus on the interaction of the vitamins and hormones distinct to males rather than females. The study doesn’t conclusively link higher doses of the vitamins to higher rates of lung cancer.
Not all research on the matter points to these conclusions, however. In fact, Paul Brennan, the International Agency for Research’s genetics head lead has had their research contradicted by these latest findings, which appear this far to be valid. Ultimately, Brennan has his team had not found any links between high levels of Vitamin B6 in the blood and men with lung cancer (or people with lung cancer in general, for that matter).
In fact, there is a lot of information that is contradictory between various studies of B Vitamins. In some cases, including that of Brennan’s findings and others, the presence of B Vitamins leads to a decrease in the occurrence of lung cancer, as the B Vitamins offer some measure of protective effect.
Dr. Eric Bernicker comments on this mystery. A thoracic oncologist of Houston Methodist Hospital, he explains that while one might expect that things helping the body, such as vitamins, would do no harm, the relationship between health, supplements, and nutrition is much more nuanced.
What is known for sure is that whether or not B Vitamin supplements help or harm one’s odds of getting lung cancer, smoking is definitely is a huge risk factor; therefore, it is prudent to quit smoking if one wishes to avoid lung cancer, regardless of other lifestyle choices or sources of B Vitamins.
All in all, there remains more research to be done regarding this phenomenon. Additional studies may shed light on the issue, revealing the true nature of the relationship between B Vitamins, cancer, and other aspects of health. What is known is that B Vitamins have numerous positive effects on the body, and as such should remain part of the diet. For those who are concerned, it may be worthwhile to adjust supplement intake or to ensure that one gets as much of their B6 and B12 from food, as possible, rather than getting such nutrients from supplements or other sources.