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.