New research about the safety of Vitamin B12 supplements is raising red flags for mesothelioma patients and those at risk for mesothelioma.
A major international study published in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that too much Vitamin B12 in the body may be a cause of lung cancer.
The study included researchers from top institutions like Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the University of Pittsburgh, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute.
Pleural Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer
Pleural mesothelioma has a lot in common with lung cancer. It develops in the cells of the membrane around the lungs.
As mesothelioma spreads, the membrane becomes less pliable, making it hard for the lungs to expand normally.
As a result, the symptoms of mesothelioma such as cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath are similar to lung cancer. Several of the main treatments for pleural mesothelioma are also similar to lung cancer.
Evaluating the Safety of B12 Supplements
Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in metabolism and energy production. It is also crucial for the brain and nervous system to function normally.
Many people, including mesothelioma patients, take B12 supplements for good health. Some people with a type of anemia may be low in B12 and need to take supplements.
But the new study raises serious questions about the safety of B12 supplements for people who are not low in the vitamin.
How the Study Was Done
The study looked at blood samples from more than 5,000 lung cancer patients and 5,000 healthy people.
Researchers also evaluated genetic data from nearly 30,000 lung cancer patients and 56,000 healthy people. They were looking for a gene variation that impacts the risk for lung cancer.
“We found circulating vitamin B12 to be positively associated with overall lung cancer risk in a dose response fashion,” the researchers write.
But the safety of B12 supplements was not the only problem. Even people who had higher B12 concentrations in their blood because of their genetics had a higher risk of lung cancer.
“Considering the consistency of these two independent and complementary analyses,” the study concludes, “these findings support the hypothesis that high vitamin B12 status increases the risk of lung cancer.”
Researchers still do not know why B12 may raise the risk for lung cancer.
In the meantime, mesothelioma patients who are concerned about the safety of B12 supplements should discuss the findings with their doctor. It is not a good idea to start or stop taking a supplement during cancer treatment without letting the doctor know.
Fanidi, A, et al, “Is high vitamin B12 status a cause of lung cancer?”, International Journal of Cancer, November 29, 2018, Epub ahead of print, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.32033