The Importance of Careful Reading

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The headline says:

Study: Vitamin C or E pills do not prevent cancer

But the first line of the article says:

Vitamin C or E pills do not help prevent cancer in men, concludes the same big study that last week found these supplements ineffective for warding off heart disease.

Bolding mine. Although the research was carried out at “Brigham and Women’s Hospital,” the article notes:

“Antioxidants, which include vitamin C and vitamin E, have been shown as a group to have potential benefit,” but have not been tested individually for a long enough time to know, said Howard Sesso of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The Physicians Health Study, which he helped lead, was designed to do that. It involved 14,641 male doctors, 50 or older, including 1,274 who had cancer when or before the study started in 1997. They were included so scientists could see whether the vitamins could prevent a second cancer.

Participants were put into four groups and given vitamin E, vitamin C, both, or dummy pills. The dose of E was 400 international units every other day; C was 500 milligrams daily.

After an average of eight years, there were 1,929 cases of cancer, including 1,013 cases of prostate cancer, which many had hoped vitamin E would prevent.

However, rates of prostate cancer and of total cancer were similar among all four groups.

Again, bolding mine. I’m not a medical professional so how generalizable the results of the study are to women, I have no idea.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to The Importance of Careful Reading

  1. Eric says:

    how generalizable the results of the study are to women, I have no idea.

    And neither, it would appear, do medical professionals.

  2. Ann Bartow says:

    Hah! I needed a good laugh, and thank you muchly for providing one.

  3. hmprescott says:

    The short answer is that these results aren’t generalizable to women. Since this work was funded by NIH, they are supposed to include women in their sample — so hopefully they are doing similar work with the Nurses’ Health Study cohort. Then again, if their goal was to study prostate cancer they wouldn’t have had to include women as per NIH guidelines.