Vitamin E during cancer treatment
Abstract and key points
- Vitamin E is a generic term encompassing different chemical compounds, each having a different metabolism and biological activity.
- Vitamin E compounds are fat-soluble antioxidants and some of them might have additional presumed anticancer properties.
- As an adjunct to conventional anticancer therapy, vitamin E might reduce side effects (i.e. oral mucositis, hand-foot-syndrome and peripheral neurotoxicity).
- No clinical trials describing the use of vitamin E monotherapy as an anticancer treatment have been published.
- Vitamin E is considered to have a very low toxicity, and is generally well-tolerated in low doses.
Vitamin E is a generic term encompassing natural (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocotrienol) and synthetic (all-rac-alpha-tocopherol) forms, and the esters thereof. The role of some forms of vitamin E in cancer prevention and therapy has been proposed.
This summary focuses on vitamin E during cancer, i.e. when used as an anticancer agent or to alleviate the adverse events of cancer treatments. Vitamin E in the prevention of cancer is not covered by this summary.
No clinical trials describing the use of vitamin E monotherapy as an anticancer treatment have been published. The available peer-reviewed clinical literature describes the use of alpha-tocopherol, all-rac-alpha-tocopherol, and tocotrienol as components of multivitamin regimens or mixtures of micronutrients, in combination with non-cancer drugs, or as adjuncts to conventional chemotherapy or radiation. In 5 randomized, placebo-controlled studies in adults and children, it was found that topical vitamin E might prevent oral mucositis induced by chemotherapy or radiotherapy. In five randomized, controlled or placebo-controlled clinical studies a decrease of the incidence and severity of peripheral neurotoxicity induced by taxanes or platinum-based chemotherapy by alpha-tocopherol was found, but this finding was not confirmed in two other randomized, placebo-controlled studies.
Vitamin E is considered to have a very low toxicity, and is generally well-tolerated. However, special consideration should be given when high doses of alpha-tocopherol are administered to cardiovascular disease patients or individuals taking anticoagulant therapy (e.g., warfarin), and to those with vitamin-K-related clotting disorders. Non-healthy patients should not take daily doses of 400 IU or higher. Little information is available on the adverse events of other forms of vitamin E.
CitationLuc Geeraert, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Vitamin E during cancer treatment [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Dietary-approaches/Vitamin-E-during-cancer-treatment. September 30, 2015.
Summary updated in September 2015 by Luc Geeraert.
Summary fully revised and updated in July 2013 by Luc Geeraert.
Summary first published in August 2011, authored by Luc Geeraert.
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