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Taking Vitamin B May Increase Risk Of Lung Cancer in Male Smokers

It is common knowledge that smoking causes lung cancer.  But a new study found that high dosages of vitamin B6 or B12 supplements were linked with three to four times the lung cancer risk in male smokers compared with smokers who did not take the supplements Harvard Health Publishing reports. The results were published in the Aug. 22, 2017, Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Illustration of lung cancer

The research examined information from more than 44,000 men ages 50 to 76. In the beginning of the research, the men reported on their smoking history and their B vitamin supplement use over the previous 10 years. In the study, high intake of B vitamin was classified as 20 milligrams (mg) of B6 per day or 55 micrograms (mcg) of B12. (The recommended daily intakes for men ages 51 and older are 1.7 mg for B6 and 2.4 mcg for B12.)

Higher risk especially for male smokers who consume high amount of Vitamin B

The research team found the highest risk for male smokers taking more than 20 mg of B6 or 55 micrograms of B12 a day for 10 years. Male smokers taking B6 were at three times greater lung cancer risk; those taking B12 were at four times greater risk. Non-smoking men were at twice the risk as those not taking the supplements. Forbes further explains, women were not found to be at greater risk.

According to researchers, B vitamins help strengthen the immune systems. So it is not clear why high levels of supplemental B vitamins would increase rather than decrease smokers’ lung cancer risk states. The researchers thought  that the B vitamins might feed small, undetected tumors and make them grow faster.

Whether a person takes Vitamin B or not, not smoking remains the most important way to prevent lung cancer. In fact, the researchers also found that men who quit smoking for at least 10 years before the study and also took high dosages of the B vitamins did not have a higher risk of lung cancer. In fact, their risk was equal to that of men who had never smoked.

Functions of Vitamin B6 and B12

According to Healthy Eating, both B6 and B12 have a number of functions besides those shared by all B vitamins. Vitamin B6 also helps form neurotransmitters, red blood cells and niacin;which keeps your immune system functioning properly; and is involved with brain development. Vitamin B12 essential for brain and nerve function and for forming red blood cells and DNA.

Sources of Vitamin B

Good sources of vitamin B6 according to Harvard School of Public Health,  include fortified cereals, beans, poultry (chicken, turkey and ducks), fish, and some vegetables and fruits, especially dark leafy greens, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products (such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy); it is also found in fortified breakfast cereals and enriched soy or rice milk. Most people have plenty of vitamin B12 in their diets.

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