New research reveals that men who take high doses of vitamins B6 and B12 have a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of getting lung cancer. People sometimes use these supplements if they have anemia, Chron’s disease, or celiac disease in order to increase their energy. Healthy people also take them to boost their moods.
Researchers from Ohio State University and the National Taiwan University examined more than 77,000 people in the United States aged 50 to 76. Men who smoked and took the vitamins in large amounts had an even higher risk of getting lung cancer—their risk was four times higher when taking B12 and three times higher when taking B6. There was no increased risk among women or for those who took vitamin B9.
Eight hundred volunteers who consumed high doses of the vitamins developed lung cancers. Theodore Brasky, Ph.D, the lead author of the study at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, said in a press release: “What we found was that men who had used dietary supplements, in particular, B6 and vitamin B12, at high doses for 10 years, were at a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer.”
It’s unclear what the connection is between vitamin B6 and B12 intake and cancer risk. But the research proves that these supplements can be a problem. Brasky recommends that people be careful about their habits: “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.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns against anyone consuming too much vitamin B6 because it can result in loss of body control, nausea, heartburn, skin irritation and sensitivity to sunlight. Most Americans get a regular dose of vitamin B6 from fruits, vegetables, cereal, chicken, and beef. Vitamin B12 can be potentially toxic in large doses. It’s found in meat, eggs, and milk.
Brasky and his colleagues noted, “Half of the U.S. adult population uses one or more dietary supplements. 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 associations we observed provide evidence that high-dose B6 and B12 supplements should not be taken for lung cancer prevention and, in fact, may increase risk of this disease in men.”