Researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine have determined that vitamin E performs two protective actions - by inhibiting one protein that attaches itself to the male hormone androgen, and also restricting another protein, prostate specific antigen or PSA.
Androgen is known to contribute to growth of cancer cells. The role of PSA, which is widely used as a marker to indicate the presence of prostate cancer in males, is uncertain.
The new research is being reported as US health officials are conducting a massive study looking at the use of both vitamin E and the mineral selenium for helping prevent prostate cancer.
The University of Rochester project found, however, that while vitamin E altered the two proteins, selenium did not do so. Researchers said selenium might function in different ways than vitamin E.
The vitamin E finding was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This finding could lead to advances in prostate cancer treatment as well as prevention. The scientists found that when alpha tocopherol succinate, a type of vitamin E, was added to an androgen-blocking chemotherapy drug, the cancer cells grew more slowly than when the drug was used alone.