Reductions in Iron Blood Levels Associated with Decreased Cancer Risk in Men with Peripheral Arterial Disease
Men with peripheral arterial disease who participated in a randomized controlled trial in which their iron stores were reduced by blood drawing had a reduced incidence of cancer relative to men in the trial who did not undergo blood letting.
Observational studies have suggested that lower levels of iron in the blood may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Data from animal studies are consistent with the observation, and researchers hypothesize that iron catalyzes the production of free radicals that damage cellular components, including DNA.
The current randomized controlled trial enrolled individuals with peripheral arterial disease from Veterans Administration facilities. The primary goal of the trial was to examine the effect of reducing of iron stores on the development of vascular disease. In the current analysis, Leo Zacharski, M.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt., and colleagues compared the rate of new visceral malignancies and cause-specific mortality in the trial participants, 98.8 percent of whom were men. The malignancy and mortality data were collected prospectively.
The 636 participants who underwent phlebotomy were 37 percent less likely to develop cancer during the 4.5-year follow-up period than were the 641 participants assigned to the control arm (38 versus 60 cancers). Individuals in the experimental arm also had a lower cancer-specific and all cause-mortality compared with individuals in the control arm.
"Findings from this study support the hypothesis that ambient levels of body iron stores represented by the serum ferritin level are associated with cancer risk and that lowering iron levels reduces cancer risk," the authors write.
In an accompanying editorial, Gustaf Edgren, Ph.D., Olof Nyrn, M.D., Ph.D., and Mad
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Journal of the National Cancer Institute