Study says women taking antioxidants increase risk of skin cancer

September 4, 2007

Paris - A team of French researchers has completed a study showing that women who take antioxidant supplements, which include vitamins C and E and beta carotene, may increase their risk of skin cancer by as much as 68 percent, according to an ABC News report.

Paris - A team of French researchers has completed a study showing that women who take antioxidant supplements, which include vitamins C and E and beta carotene, may increase their risk of skin cancer by as much as 68 percent, according to an ABC News report.

In addition, the risk of melanoma was found to be four times greater in women taking the supplements.

The study, reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Nutrition, was based on observation of about 13,000 French adults, ages 35 to 60, half of whom took a daily capsule of antioxidant that contained vitamins C, E, beta carotene and selenium. The other half took a placebo. The researchers then recorded how many developed skin cancer over an average period of seven-and-one-half years.

Results show that 51 percent of the women who took the antioxidants developed skin cancer, compared with 30 percent of those taking the placebo.

According to ABC News, the findings surprised many who believe that antioxidants protect against sun damage that leads to skin cancer. Previous animal studies have shown that antioxidants taken prior to exposure to ultraviolet light seem to protect against skin cancer.

The French study differed, according to the researchers, in that the antioxidants were given only after years of the subjects’ exposure to sunlight. The researchers conclude that at this stage in life, it may be too late to prevent genetic damage - hence the skin cancer.

ABC News reports that other researchers say the study’s findings could be called into question based on the fact that the research was designed to determine the extent to which antioxidants reduce, rather than increase, skin cancer risk.

The researchers found no difference in skin cancer rates among males who took the antioxidant or placebo.