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Vitamin A Cousin May Help Prevent Lung Cancer
Orlando FL, 25 May 2002

Researchers have discovered that a "cousin" of vitamin A may reverse damage that smoking causes in lungs. Even though smokers who quit reduce their risk of developing cancer, the damage done to the lungs does not immediately go away. Half of the lung cancer cases in the US are former smokers.

Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E are often touted as cancer fighters, but for lung cancer, megadoses of these vitamins have not been shown to be helpful. In looking for alternatives, a team led by Dr. Jonathan Kurie of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston tried a cousin of vitamin A called 9-cis retinoic acid, which has prevented the development of breast cancer in animals injected with human breast cancer cells.

The study divided 226 former smokers into three groups. One was given 9-cis retinoic acid; another got 13-cis retinoic acid plus alpha tocopherol, a form of vitamin E; the third received a placebo. Biopsies of lung tissue were taken before and after treatment.

"The 9-cis retinoic acid significantly decreased or reversed the precancerous state, compared to 13-cis retinoic acid or placebo," said Dr. Charles Balch, executive vice president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which featured the study at its annual conference in Orlando.

The researchers conclude that the findings are promising enough to justify further experiments. Followup with these patients will be needed to see if the changes mean they do not develop lung cancer.


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