Do vitamin E supplements increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing cancer? It turns out that the answer lies in your genes. Genetic variation may increase the cancer risk in some individuals while decreasing the risk for others.
In a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that certain variations in a gene called “COMT” were responsible for vitamin E’s impact on the risk of cancer. This COMT gene encodes the production of an enzyme called “catechol-O-methyltransferase” (COMT), which influences the way in which a person’s body processes vitamin E. The COMT variant that researchers know the most about has three different variants comprising different alleles: met/met, val/met, and val/val.
The study found that women with the met/met variant of COMT who took vitamin E supplements had 14% lower cancer rates than women with the met/met allele who took a placebo.
At the same time, individuals with the val/val variant of COMT who took vitamin E supplements had 15% higher cancer rates compared with participants with the same genetic variant who took a placebo.
Dr. Yik is seeing more and more people interested in genetic testing. Sometimes it’s needed to rule out certain gene defects (click here to read about MTHFR gene testing for fertility and other health concerns). Sometimes it’s requested just out of curiosity. This study shows how genetic variation can determine of the benefits and possible harms of dietary supplements.