Large-scale study links vitamin E treatment to lower rates of cancer among military women

Older women who receive vitamin E drugs as part of hormone therapy may be less likely to develop breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

UCLA experts observed more than 1,600 female veterans from the Los Angeles National Guard who became pregnant while receiving hormone therapy, and then compared them to 455 veterans who did not.

The 2003 study was led by Dr. Donna Tamaki of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The research was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Tamaki has been following the illness and prevention of cancer among Los Angeles National Guard for several years. In November 2017 she published a piece titled “Laws Pass a New Way to Prevent Breast Cancer.”Tamaki, who is co-principal investigator of the study, said vitamin E was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1980 for use in women “who have not previously received estrogen therapy because of hormonal disruptions.” The drug is prescribed to prevent and treat ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.

“Thus, vitaminemtroitin A may help us to have more effective and comprehensive cancer screening and prevention of hormone cancer among this group of highly effective and responsive to treatment,” she said.

Tamaki added that among all 331 newly diagnosed cases of cancer among women aged 40 to 79 years, the percentage who were vitamin E-dependent was 41.7%, compared with 51.8% among the group of non-veterans who have not previously been treated for breast cancer or ovarian cancer.

UCLA expert says large study data must be interpreted with caution.

“Although substantial evidence shows that estrogen receptor (ER)-positive cancer and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer are prevalent among women and that they are linked to estrogen receptor expression, our study does not include ER-positive or ER-negative breast cancer to allow for causality,” Tamaki said.

“More than half of the women who had no vitamin E received the drug through the FDA whereas most women who received the drug through the Korean National Medical System,” she said.