Can Vitamins Boost Prostate Health?

When it comes to the use of vitamins, there is much debate as to what helps and what doesn’t help with overall prostate health. UCA doctors offer some good insight into the subject and what you should consider when looking to supplement your diet.

Are Vitamin E & Selenium Good or Bad for Prostate Health?

Many patients ask if taking vitamin E increases or decreases the risk of prostate cancer? They also often ask the same question about selenium.

Both of these supplements (Vitamin E & Selenium) were studied in depth for prostate cancer protection by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2001, through a large scale study called SELECT (short for the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial). The study was designed to follow up on evidence from earlier research suggesting that selenium and vitamin E might reduce the risk of prostate cancer. More than 35,000 men at 400 locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico enrolled in SELECT between 2001 and 2004. Some of these participants took 400 IU of vitamin E daily, some took a combination of vitamin E and selenium, some took selenium alone and some were given placebos. This was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, meaning that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which men were getting which supplement and that results of each arm of the trial could be compared to those from the control group, where participants received placebos.

Long-term follow-up results, published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that there were 17 percent more cases of prostate cancer among men who took vitamin E alone than among the men who took the placebo. According to the NCI, 65 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed for every 1,000 men participating in SELECT after seven years. However, for the men assigned to take vitamin E only, 76 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed for every 1,000 men, (11 additional cases of prostate cancer per 1,000 men over seven years).

In an analysis published last year (2014), the NCI reported that men who had high levels of selenium at the start of the trial had almost double the chance of developing a high-grade (the most aggressive type) of prostate cancer if they took the selenium supplement compared to men with low levels of selenium at the start of the trial. NCI said this finding was unexpected, since earlier studies had shown that men with low levels of selenium to begin with had an increased risk of prostate cancer that was reduced with supplements. In addition, men with low levels of selenium at the start of the SELECT trial had double the chance of developing a high-grade prostate cancer if they took the vitamin E supplement.

For a detailed review of the SELECT study findings, please visit the National Cancer Institute website http://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/research/select-trial-results-qa. As with any personal health decision, we recommend you consult your primary care physician or a UCA urologist – to discuss your personal health, available options, and an appropriate care plan.