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Antioxidant vitamins and minerals in prevention of cancers: lessons from the SU.VI.MAX study

  • Serge Hercberg (a1) (a2), Sebastien Czernichow (a1) and Pilar Galan (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1079/BJN20061695
  • Published online: 01 March 2007
Abstract

A voluminous body of epidemiological research concerning the potential role of antioxidant nutrients in the prevention of cancers has accumulated over the past few decades. However, results of large recent intervention trials do not support a preventive effect against cancer for supplementation with antioxidant nutrients. Seemingly contradictory results between observational studies and randomised trials can be explained by the fact that doses used in clinical trials were much higher than the highest levels attained by the usual dietary intake which, in observational studies, were found to be associated with the lowest risk of cancer. Recently, the Supplementation en Vitamines et Mine´raux Antioxydants (SU.VI.MAX) study, a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled primary prevention trial, tested the efficacy of supplementation with a combination of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, at nutritional doses, in reducing the cancer incidence in a general population not selected for risk factors. After 7·5 years, low-dose antioxidant supplementation lowered the total cancer incidence in men only. This may be explained by a lower baseline status of certain antioxidants in men compared to women. Finally, the effect of antioxidant supplementation on the incidence of cancer could depend on baseline antioxidant status (which differs from gender and/or nutritional status) and the health status of subjects (healthy v. cancer high-risk subjects). Antioxidant supplementation may have a beneficial effect upon cancer incidence only in healthy subjects who are not exposed to cancer risk and who have a particularly low baseline status. High doses of antioxidant supplementation may be deleterious in subjects in whom the initial phase of cancer development has already started, and they could be ineffective in well-nourished subjects with adequate antioxidant status.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Serge Hercberg, email: hercberg@cnam.fr
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

ATBC Cancer Prevention Study Group (1994) The effect of vitamin E and beta carotene on the incidence of lung cancer and other cancers in male smokers. N Engl J Med 330, 10291035.

WJ Blot , JY Li & PR Taylor (1993) Nutrition intervention trials in Linxian, China: supplementation with specific vitamin/mineral combinations, cancer incidence, and disease-specific mortality in the general population. J Natl Cancer Inst 85, 14831492.

CH Hennekens , JE Buring & JE Manson (1996) Lack of effect of long-term supplementation with β-carotene on the incidence of malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 334, 11451149.

S Hercberg , P Galan , P Preziosi , S Bertrais , L Mennen , D Malvy , AM Roussel , A Favier & S Briançon (2004) The SU.VI.MAX study: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial of the health effects of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. Arch Intern Med 164, 23352343.

S Hercberg , P Preziosi , S Briançon , P Galan , A Paul-Dauphin , D Malvy , A-M Roussel & A Favier (1998 b) A primary prevention trial of nutritional doses of antioxidant vitamins and minerals on cardiovascular diseases and cancers in general population: the SU.VI.MAX study. Design, methods and participant characteristics. Control Clin Trials 19, 336351.

GS Omenn , GE Goodman & MD Thorquist (1996) Effects of a combination of β-carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med 334, 11501155.

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British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
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