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August 24, 2007

Antioxidant Supplements May Raise Women's (But Not Men's) Skin Cancer Risk

Topics: Skin Cancer

According to a French study, taking antioxidant supplements will not protect women against skin cancer and may actually boost the risk:

"Taking into consideration our results, we are particularly concerned by the use of long-term supplementation, notably in sun-seekers and people wanting to look tanned [using beta-carotene]," said researcher Dr. Serge Hercberg, professor of nutrition at the Medical University of Paris.

The new findings come on the heels of a study, published in mid-August in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that found that antioxidants don't prevent heart disease risk in high-risk women.

In the new French study, published in the September issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Hercberg's team looked at the effects of antioxidant doses on skin cancer. The research was conducted as part of a larger study that looked at the effects of antioxidants on cancer and ischemic heart disease.

Antioxidant nutrients are thought to reduce disease risk by cutting down on the unhealthy effects of "free radical" molecules that damage cells.

The researchers assigned almost 7,900 women and more than 5,100 men to take either an oral daily capsule of antioxidant or a placebo that looked the same. The antioxidants included 120 milligrams of vitamin C, 30 milligrams of vitamin E, 6 milligrams of beta-carotene, 100 micrograms of selenium and 20 milligrams of zinc.

"They are not high doses," Hercberg said. "They are at a level below a lot of pills you can find to buy over the counter."

The men and women were followed for about 7.5 years. In that time, 157 cases of any form of skin cancers were reported, including 25 melanomas, the most deadly form.

The team found that, in women, the incidence of all types of skin cancer combined was actually higher in the antioxidant group, and so was their incidence of melanoma.

But the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers, when evaluated separately, did not differ between the antioxidant and placebo groups in men or women. In men, there was no difference in any form of skin cancer (including melanoma) between the two groups.

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Posted by Richard at August 24, 2007 8:16 AM


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