London: People who have higher levels of vitamin B6 and certain essential proteins in their blood seem to be at a lower risk of getting lung cancer, even if they smoke, a European study has claimed.
The study of 400,000 people by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, found that high levels of Vitamin B6 and the amino acid methionine cut the risk of getting the disease by half.
These essential nutrients can be obtained from nuts, fish and meat. But the researchers said stopping smoking is still the best way of reducing lung cancer risk, the BBC reported.
And, as yet, it is too early to say that taking vitamins would provide any extra protection, they suggested.
"These findings are really exciting as they are important
for understanding the process of lung cancer and could have
implications for prevention," said Dr Panagiota Mitrou of the
the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) which was involved in
"But while this is an important study, it is vital that we get the message across to smokers that increasing intake of B-vitamins is not -- and never will be -- a substitute for stopping smoking."
However, it could mean that ex-smokers and people who have never smoked can do something positive to reduce their risk of lung cancer, she said.
For their study, the researchers looked at nearly 400,000 people from 10 European countries over eight years. They included smokers, ex-smokers and people who had never smoked.
They found that those with higher circulating levels of both Vitamin B6 and methionine in their blood appeared to be protected against lung cancer regardless of their smoking status.
Out of a total 899 cancer cases found over the course of the study, only 129 people with highest levels of the essential nutrients developed lung tumours compared to 408 who had lower level of the vitamins.
However, the cancer experts said that more research is required to confirm their findings.
"If further research does confirm our findings then the next step would be to identify the optimum B-vitamin levels for reducing future cancer risk," said lead researcher Dr Paul Brennan of the study from the IARC.
Dr Joanna Owens, of Cancer Research UK, said: "Although this study suggests a link between vitamin B levels in the blood and reduced risk of lung cancer, this doesn`t prove that vitamin B can directly protect against the disease.
"Vitamin B levels might be higher in people who eat a healthy diet, and this in itself can help reduce the risk of cancer.
"The most important way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking. No amount of vitamins can counteract the risks posed by smoking."
The findings of the study appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association.