The headline in The Atlantic said: “Vitamin B6 and B12 Supplements Appear to Cause Cancer in Men.” The Huffington Post said: “Men: Taking Vitamins B6 and B12 Could Increase Your Risk of Lung Cancer.” There were few news sources that didn’t pick up this provocative headline. As you might expect, I started to get questions about the study almost immediately from people who take B vitamins and who drink energy drinks. Exactly what is going on? That’s what we’ll examine in this week’s Memos. Today we’ll take a look at the study.
The Vitamin and Lifestyle study (VITAL) collected information from over 77,000 men and women in western Washington State. The subjects were 50 to 76 when data collection began in 2000–2002. Participants completed a detailed questionnaire on supplement use, a food frequency questionnaire for diet, and a lifestyle questionnaire focusing on risk factors for cancer. The focus was to recruit supplement users.
In an analysis of the data on smoking patterns and the use of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, researchers found that men who smoked while taking high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12 had a significantly increased risk of lung cancer. The same results were not found in women.
Those are the results. We’ll take a closer look at the accuracy of the headlines on Thursday.
What are you prepared to do today?
Reference: J Clin Oncol. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.2017. 72.7735