Antioxidants Prevent Lung Cancer After All

August 4, 2004

Smokers taking a wide range of antioxidants through their diet, reduce their risk of getting lung cancer. This is demonstrated by a follow up study from a world famous research study (ATBC). The ATBC study has been the source of the opposite interpretation for ten years.

The startling result is sourced from the so called ATBC-study, a Finnish study from 1994, which demonstrated that the risk for male smokers getting lung cancer did not decrease, but increased, when they were given large dosages of betacarotene – the yellow colouring substance in carrots.

The ATBC study was a shock for researchers all over the world, who on the basis of numerous animal studies were convinced that antioxidants prevent cancer. Since then the ATBC study has been the standing argument for recurrent warnings against antioxidants on TV etc.

In the new study, staticians from the prestigious American Yale University together with Finnish colleages looked through 1,787 cases of lung cancer, approximately the amount of the 27,000 male heavy smokers in the ATBC group, who got lung cancer during the 14 years.

In the new study, measurements were taken not just for one single antioxidant, but for the total intake of the antioxidants selenium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C as well as coloured parts in plants, the so called carotenoids and flavonoids. The most updated inclusive index was calculated in advance stating the total antioxidant intake with just one figure.

It turned out that the fifth of the smokers, who had the highest index statisticly seen through their diet, had a 16% less risk of lung cancer! Smokers who ate large amounts of meat had a 25% decrease, despite of red meat having a high oxidative effect! This supports the fact that it was the antioxidative effect that made the difference.

It is not the first time such results are seen, but they are of great importance, because they are sourced from the same ATBC study, which has been one of the most outspoken arguments to warn against antioxidants. Two other larger studies has found the risk of lung cancer decreased up to as much as 32% and 68%.

The researchers emphasize in a commentary, that when the original study was a disappointment, the explanation may lie in the fact that smokers did not get a combination of vitamins etc., but were given betacarotene alone. They recommend smokers to always take a wide selection of antioxidants as a protection against cancer.

By: Vitality Council

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3. Michaud DS et al. Intake of specific carotenoids and risk of lung cancer in 2 prospective US cohorts. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:990-7.