"Our study found that consuming high-dose individual B6 and B12 vitamin supplements over a 10-year period is associated with increased lung cancer risk, especially in male smokers", the researchers wrote in the report, as cited by the Independent.
The risks of developing lung cancer were even higher for men who take the supplements and also smoke, according to the study, which was published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. While the findings are interesting, previous research could not find a definitive association between lung cancer and vitamin B supplements.
"That's marketing. That's not science", Brasky noted.
The risk of lung cancer nearly doubled for men who took the highest doses of 10-year average daily dose of vitamin B6 ( 20 mg/day; hazard ratio [HR], 1.82; 95% CI, 1.25-2.65) and vitamin B12 ( 55 μg/day; HR, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.32-2.97), compared to non-users. They were 89 percent more likely to get lung cancer than those who didn't take B12.
Although now, there is evidence of just how much harm long-term mega-supplementation with B6 and B12 can do for male smokers.
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For the study, epidemiologists Theodore Brasky (The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia) and colleagues analysed data from the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort study, which was created to assess the use of vitamin and mineral supplements in relation to cancer risk.
When Medical News Today spoke with Dr. Brasky, he said, "Unlike most other studies (particularly at the time), we obtained information on supplement frequency of use, duration of use, and dose commonly used in the 10 years prior to the beginning of the study". Or it may be that lung cancer itself raises levels of these vitamins in the body.
However, the differences in lung cancer risk between the highest and lowest categories of supplementation use appeared considerably greater among current smokers than recent smokers - defined as those who quit less than 10 years prior - or former smokers, defined as those who quit 10 or more years prior.
The patients, aged 50 to 76, provided detailed information about their vitamin B usage over 10 years, including supplement dosages. If they also smoked, their risk of cancer was up to four times higher.
Important note: Because this was an observational study, it can't prove for sure that these vitamin B supplements actually caused lung cancer. "This is certainly a concern worthy of further evaluation". Then, they followed up the participants for an average of about 6 years to see how many developed lung cancer. He pointed out, "When we're talking about what to be concerned about most: If you're a male smoker and you want to take B vitamins, you can stop smoking".