People with high levels of B-vitamins in their blood may be at reduced risk of lung cancer, according to a new study funded by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
The research by scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that people with above average levels of Vitamin B6 and methionine — a related nutrient — were half as likely to develop the disease. The results were similar for smokers, non-smokers and ex-smokers. And for those people with high levels of vitamins B6 and folate as well high levels of methionine, there was a two-thirds lower risk of lung cancer.
For the study, the researchers looked at 899 lung cancer sufferers who had donated blood as part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, an initiative involving more than 500,000 participants from 10 European countries. They also looked at 1,770 people who had donated blood and did not develop the disease.
Paul Brennan, the lead researcher of the study, said: "More research is needed to confirm that B-vitamins actually reduce risk of lung cancer. However, these results are significant because the reduction in risk was consistent among current smokers, former smokers, and people who had never smoked. If further research does confirm our findings then the next step would be to identify the optimum B-vitamin levels for reducing future cancer risk."
Panagiota Mitrou, science program manager for WCRF, said: "These findings are really exciting as they are important for understanding the process of lung cancer and could have implications for prevention. But while this is an important study, it is vital that we get the message across to smokers that increasing intake of B-vitamins is not — and never will be — a substitute for stopping smoking.
"However, we should also recognise that a significant number of lung cancer cases occur among people who have never smoked or who have stopped smoking. This means that for ex-smokers and people who have never smoked, the findings of this study could mean that these people can do something positive to reduce their risk of lung cancer."
Serum B Vitamin Levels and Risk of Lung Cancer by P Brennan et al JAMA. 2010;303(23):2377-2385