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Can Vitamin A (Retinol) Increase the Risk of Cancer?

Jul 19, 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
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Multiple clinical studies have analyzed association of levels of vitamin A (retinol) with cancer risk. Levels of Vitamin A (retinol) were positively associated with risk of prostate cancer, as examined in large numbers of cancer patients. This indicates that use of excessive vitamin supplements intake to support health and well being may not necessarily add much value to us and could have a potential to cause harm such as increasing the risk of prostate cancer.

Retinol Vitamin-A & Prostate Cancer Risk

Vitamin A and Cancer

Vitamin A or Retinol is a fat-soluble essential nutrient with various health benefits including the following:

  • Supports normal vision
  • Supports healthy skin
  • Supports growth and development of cells
  • Improve immune function
  • Support reproduction and fetal development

Being an essential nutrient, Vitamin A is not produced by the human body and is obtained from our healthy diet. It is commonly found in animal sources such as milk, eggs, cheese, butter, liver and fish-liver oil in the form of retinol, the active form of Vitamin A, and in plant sources such as carrot, broccoli, sweet potato, red bell peppers, spinach, papaya, mango and pumpkin in the form of carotenoids, which are converted to retinol by the human body during digestion.

Multivitamin supplement use is on the rise in the aging baby boomer generation for health benefits and supporting general well being. Most people believe that high dose vitamin intake is an anti-aging, immunity-boosting and disease prevention elixir, that even if not effective, can do no harm. With the widespread use of vitamins across global populations, there have been multiple observational retrospective clinical studies that have looked at associations of different vitamins with their cancer preventative role. In this blog, we specifically looked at the studies that have examined the association of levels of retinol (vitamin A) in the serum and risk of different cancers including prostate cancer.

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Vitamin A (Retinol) and Prostate Cancer Risk

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Below is a summary of some of these studies and their key findings:

  • A pooled analysis of 15 different clinical studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015, looked at over 11,000 cases, to determine association of levels of vitamins and cancer risk. In this very large sample size, levels of retinol were positively associated with prostate cancer risk (Key TJ et al, Am J Clin Nutr., 2015).
  • An observational analysis of over 29,000 samples from the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cancer prevention study conducted by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institute of Health (NIH), USA, reported that at the 3 year follow-up, men with higher serum retinol (Vitamin-A) concentration had an elevated risk of prostate cancer (Mondul AM et al, Am J Epidemiol, 2011).
  • A more recent analysis of the same NCI driven alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cancer prevention study of over 29,000 participants between 1985-1993 with a follow-up to 2012, confirmed the earlier findings of the association of higher serum retinol concentration with increased risk of prostate cancer. Higher serum retinol was not associated with overall cancer risk and observed to lower risk of liver and lung cancer, but across multiple studies there has been a positive correlation seen between serum Retinol (Vitamin A) levels and elevated risk of prostate cancer (Hada M et al, Am J Epidemiol, 2019).


These studies indicate that high intake of Vitamin A supplements is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. What does this data mean for us? It indicates that excess of vitamin supplements to support health and well being may not necessarily add much value to us and could have a potential for causing harm. What is better for us is getting our source of vitamins and minerals through natural sources and a healthy nutritious diet.

What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.

The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.

Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.


Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!

Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.

Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.

Scientifically Reviewed by: Dr. Cogle

Christopher R. Cogle, M.D. is a tenured professor at the University of Florida, Chief Medical Officer of Florida Medicaid, and Director of the Florida Health Policy Leadership Academy at the Bob Graham Center for Public Service.

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