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October 27, 2017

By Susan Callahan, Contributing Columnist

Among vitamins, there are stars and there are supporting
cast members. In this galaxy, Vitamin B12 and B6 have
emerged as full-fledged, red carpet-strolling stars.  Vitamin
B12, one known only to vegetarians whose diets lack it, is
the vitamin that occurs naturally in meat.

In the case of B12, the hype is not really overblown;
Vitamin B12 is essential to a wide range of your body's
functions. You need B12 to make your DNA in every cell of
your body. DNA makes you "you" and without B12, you
simply wouldn't be able to code in your DNA in your cells.
Vitamin B12 is used to make your red blood cells.

Without Vitamin B12, you lose energy. In fact one of the
clearest signs of Vitamin B12 deficiecny is listlessness.
Vitamin B12 prevents "megaplastic anemia" which makes
you tired and listless, according to the National Institutes
of Health.

Vitamin B12 also supports the health of your nerve cells.

Vitamin B12 has gained recent fame as a way to boost
your metabolism and energy levels.  So critical is Vitamin
B12 that

Vitamin B12 Raises Lung Cancer Risk in Men by 400%

Now comes the news that use of Vitamin B12 and B6 by
men raises their risk for lung cancer 4 times higher than
men who don't take these supplements. Women's cancer
risk does not appear  to be affected by taking these

This was the blockbuster finding announced by scientists
in study in 2017.  The study, completed in 2017, was
conducted by scientists from The Ohio State University
College of Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center in Seattle and  the National Taiwan University.  

This was a major study, examining the health records of
77,118 participants ranging in age from 50 to 76 years old.
The diets and cancer records of the participants were
tracked for 10 years.

At the end of the 10 year period, a total of 808 incident,
primary and invasive lung cancers  had occurred. These
were then matched against the health records showing
levels of Vitamin B12, B6 taken.

It's important to distinguish what the study did not find.

They did not find any added risk from taking multivitamins,
only individual B vitamin supplements.

They did not find that taking B vitamins affects women, as
we've said.

And they found that taking individual B vitamins raised the
risk in men by 30% to 40%.

However, among men who smoke, those who take
individual B vitamin supplements, saw their risk for lung
cancer increase by 400% compared to men who do not
take the vitamins.

Why Is the Cancer Risk of Women Not Affected by B12

Scientists are not sure why the lung cancer risk of women
is unaffected by Vitamin B12 and B6 supplementation.  
However, higher levels of estrogen may be part of the
reason. Some studies have found that higher levels of
estrogen block absorption of Vitamin B12. In 2012, for
example, a study from the University of Texas Medical
Branch showed that women who took birth control pills
have lower absorption of Vitamin B12.

The older you get, the harder it is for women and men to
absorb Vitamin B12 because of lower levels of acid in the

Thus, post-menopausal women would be  disadvantaged
in their ability to absorb B12 because of changes in their
stomach, while pre-menopausal women may absorb less
Vitamin B12 because of higher estrogen levels.

Do Foods Rich in Vitamin B12 and B6 Also Raise Your
Lung Cancer Risk?

So far, there is no proven link between eating foods rich in
Vitamin B12 or B6 and elevated lung cancer risk.

Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include beef liver, sardines,
mackerel, lamb and wild salmon. Foods rich in Vitamin B6
include enriched cereal, beans, seafood, poultry, lean
meats, eggs, seeds, nuts, and soy products.

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