Twenty years of medical research have finally proved what many doctors long suspected: that vitamins and other food substances help prevent cancer. Interestingly, the first product to be proven successful in a cancer-fighting role is Accutane, a vitamin A derivative marketed as an acne drug.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Houston have found that the vitamin A derivative has helped prevent lung, throat and mouth cancers in people diagnosed as at risk of developing them. The patients had been successfully treated for head or neck cancer, but their tissues were primed to grow new, potentially more life-threatening cancers. But in a three-year trial, Accutane prevented new cancers, although it couldn't keep the old cancers from coming back.
This news has special significance for people whose habits, such as smoking or drinking, can predispose their bodies to develop cancer. Dr. Peter Greenwald, head of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, said the study "gives us the final proof" that chemo-prevention of cancers works. Now the hunt is on for other vitamin derivatives, such as beta carotene, which have similar properties.