Making Cancer Treatment Better: Vitamin E found to reduce mouth sores

Most patients who undergo radiation therapy for head and neck cancers suffer from painful mucositis (mouth sores) which may lead to interruptions in radiation therapy and reduced tumour control. In a recent study, scientists looked at the effect of vitamin E on reducing mouth sores in radiation patients.

Brazilian researchers from the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Hospital Sao Lucas da PUC used radiation therapy to treat 54 patients diagnosed with head and/or neck cancers. The patients underwent daily (Monday through Friday) radiation therapy for five to seven weeks. Immediately before each therapy session, half of the patients dissolved a vitamin E capsule (400 mg) in their saliva, rinsed their mouth with it for five minutes, and then swallowed it. They repeated the procedure with a second capsule at home eight to 12 hours later. The other half of the patients followed the same procedures but with placebo capsules.

The researchers found that patients using vitamin E supplements as described benefited from a significant 36% reduced frequency of symptomatic mucositis. In addition, patients using vitamin E reported having less pain and difficulty eating.

Head Neck. 2004 Apr;26(4):313-21