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Vitamin C and E Supplements May Accelerate Lung Cancer Growth


A recent study suggests that antioxidant supplements, such as vitamins C and E, may promote the growth and spread of lung cancers. The researchers found that these supplements stimulate the formation of blood vessels within tumours, which can contribute to the tumour’s progression. This research highlights the importance of understanding the potential risks associated with excessive antioxidant intake and emphasizes the need for caution when using supplements.

The Study

The study, conducted by Martin Bergö and his team at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, built upon previous research that showed supplementing with antioxidants caused lung cancers to spread in mice. The researchers investigated mice with murine-specific lung cancer and mice implanted with human lung cancer cells. They administered vitamin C, vitamin E, and n-acetylcysteine supplements to the mice at increasing doses, exceeding the necessary levels.

The Findings

The researchers observed that higher doses of antioxidants led to an increased rate of blood vessel formation within the tumours in both the murine lung cancer mice and the mice with implanted human cancer cells. Although the researchers didn’t directly study the tumour growth and spread in this experiment, increased blood vessel growth is likely to contribute to the tumour’s progression.

Cautionary Notes

Martin Bergö emphasizes that individuals with cancer should not modify their diets based solely on this research. Removing all antioxidants from the diet could result in vitamin deficiencies and other health issues. The study focuses on excessive supplemented doses, exceeding what is necessary for normal functioning.

Potential Treatment Implications

The study also revealed the activation of a protein called BACH1 in response to the drop in free oxygen radical levels caused by high doses of antioxidants. BACH1 activation induces blood vessel formation, which contributes to tumour growth. These findings could potentially lead to new treatment approaches for certain cancers. Blood vessel growth inhibitors, commonly used in cancer treatments, may be more effective in individuals with high BACH1 levels in their tumours. Furthermore, the researchers found that BACH1 levels were often elevated in kidney and breast tumours, suggesting that blood vessel growth inhibitors could be targeted in these cases as well.


The study demonstrates a potential link between excessive antioxidant intake and the promotion of lung cancer growth and spread. It urges caution in the use of antioxidant supplements, emphasizing the need for balanced and appropriate supplementation. Further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms involved and to explore potential treatment implications in different types of cancers.

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