Vitamin E Tocopherols May Lower Lung Cancer Risk By More Than 50%

There are four main forms of vitamin E, or tocopherols (another name for vitamin E): alpha, beta, gamma and delta. Studies of vitamin E and cancer have focused on the alpha-tocopherol form of the vitamin. However, other forms of vitamin E have unique properties that seem to lower lung cancer risk.

Scientists at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that vitamin E tocopherols may decrease the risk of lung cancer by 50 percent or more. The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer, September 2008.

According to the lead author Somdat Mahbir, this is the first study to compare dietary intakes of the four different forms of tocopherols (alpha-, beta-, gamma and delta-tocopherol) and lung cancer risk.

The researchers studied 1,088 patients with lung cancer and 1,414 healthy people as control subjects. They calculated that the highest average intakes of alpha-tocopherol (more than 7.73 mg per day) were associated with a 34-53 % reduction in lung cancer risk, compared to the lowest average intakes (less than 4.13 mg per day).

It’s important to note, however, that alpha tocopherol was integral to the success of the other combined tocopherols. When the other tocopherols were added (beta, gamma and delta), only the association with dietary alpha-tocopherol intake remained significant; (i.e.,increasing intake of dietary alpha-tocopherol accounted for 34-53% reductions in lung cancer risk). 1

The researchers concluded that these findings need to be confirmed in further investigations.

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

In the United States, about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. People who smoke are 10 to 20 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than people who do not smoke. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more risk goes up.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that comes from rocks and dirt and can get trapped in houses and buildings. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates.

Your risk of lung cancer may be higher if your parents, siblings, or children have had lung cancer.2


Thousands of studies have been done on vitamin E. It’s been shown to support heart health, encourage production of healthy male sperm, help prevent scarring, and provide a multitude of other health benefits. This new study showing the importance of taking all four vitamin E tocopherols as a preventative against lung cancer is one more reason to add this supplement to you health regimen.

Related Articles


  1. Mahabir S, Schendel K, Dong YQ, Barrera SL, Spitz MR, Forman MR Dietary alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherols in lung cancer risk Int J Cancer. 2008 Sep 1;123(5):1173-80.
  2. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.