Tumors grow faster in cancer-prone mice given vitamins

Tumors in mice with early stages of lung cancer developed faster when the animals were given vitamin E (shown) and another supplement called acetylcysteine.

John Liu/Flickr

Giving vitamin E and another supplement to mice with early stages of lung cancer makes the animals’ tumors grow quicker.

The tumors also killed the mice twice as fast as early-stage lung lesions in mice not given the supplements, both of which are antioxidants. As expected, the antioxidants did reduce damage to DNA but also reduced levels of p53, an essential protein that suppresses tumor development, researchers report January 29 in Science Translation Medicine.

The results, confirmed in human lung cancer cells, suggest that taking antioxidants may speed up, not supress, tumor growth in smokers and other people already at a higher risk of cancer. The study does not show what would happen in healthy people. 

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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