Can Vitamin E Prevent Cancer?

Cancers from Cowden Syndrome may be slowed with vitamin E

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The rare disorder called Cowden Syndrome causes tumor-like growths all over the body. People with the condition are at risk of developing breast and thyroid cancers, among others. Research is making strides in changing those odds.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic have shown that vitamin E may help to prevent cancer development in people who have Cowden Syndrome (CS).

This therapy reduced cellular damage in CS that had mutations in the succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx) genes - which are thought to be the push-button for cancer to start.

"Ask your doctor about genetic testing."

“Once we show that the SDHx genes are affected, then vitamin E could be a potential option for cancer prevention,” study leader, Charis Eng, MD told dailyRx News in an email.

Dr. Eng is the Hardis Chair and Director of the Genomic Medicine Institute and Director of its Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute. She is the scientist who discovered the role of mutated SDHx genes.

SDHx genes are involved in the body’s energy production. When these genes are changed, something called reactive oxygen species (ROS) occurs.

The cells are damaged and no longer undergo programmed cell death – known as apoptosis.

In this laboratory study, when vitamin E was given to the altered cells, there was decreased ROS and cell damage.

Dr. Eng said, “These findings do not only apply to CS and CS-like disease. Sporadic cancers (i.e., not inherited) that have defects in the SDHx/energy-producing machinery of the cells might also benefit from vitamin E.”

People living with Cowden syndrome – which affects 1 out of 200,000 people – have an 85 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, along with a 35 percent risk for epithelial thyroid cancer. Endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer is also more common in women with CS. Other cancer risks are also higher.

This study was published in the September issue of Clinical Cancer Research.

It was supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the William Randolf Hearst Foundations and National Cancer Institute grant.

Dr. Eng disclosed financial relationships with Quest Diagnostics. No other potential conflicts of interest were reported. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 25, 2012
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013