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Tuesday, 22 August, 2000, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Vitamin 'protects against cancer'
An anti-cancer vitamin may be 10 years away
Vitamin D may protect people from developing cancer, according to scientists.

A study carried out by researchers in the US has found the vitamin can reduce the incidence and growth of cancerous tumours.

Vitamin D is often added to milk and is also produced naturally by skin exposed to sunlight.

However, the amount needed to protect the body against cancer is too high. Prolonged use can lead to osteoporosis or even death.

But researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore believe they may have found a way around the problem.

They designed four different versions of vitamin D and tested them on two groups of mice.

One group was painted with a chemical substance that causes cancerous tumours, the other was not.

They found that after 20 weeks, one version of vitamin D reduced the incidence of tumours by more than a quarter while the actual number of tumours fell by 63%.

According to the researchers, their study demonstrates that the vitamin is a potentially effective way of preventing cancer.

However, the drug is in the early stages of development and it may take 10 years before it is available for sale to the public.

The researchers suggest that if their trials prove successful the drug could be given to people with a high risk of developing cancer.

Dr Gary Posner, professor of chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, said the development of a drug to prevent cancer would be a historic milestone.

The findings were presented to a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Previous studies have suggested that vitamins can protect people from a range of life-threatening diseases.

The Cancer Research Campaign is funding similar studies in the UK.

It has provided finance for a project which is being carried out in Liverpool to investigate whether vitamin E can improve the effectiveness of drugs used to fight bowel cancer.

There is a lot of evidence that the risk of many common cancers is strongly linked to dietary factors

Cancer Research Campaign spokeswoman

A spokeswoman for the CRC said: "This study has identified a chemical which is very similar to vitamin E, which might improve the efficiency of certain cancer drugs. The aim is to move this to clinical trials."

The CRC is also analysing early results from a major international study into the links between diet and cancer.

This study is examining in detail the eating habits of 25,000 people in East Anglia.

"There is a lot of evidence that the risk of many common cancers is strongly linked to dietary factors," said the spokeswoman.

"The study will put a strong emphasis on the possible protective benefits of particular diets, including taking additional nutrients."

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28 Mar 00 | Health
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