By Kevin McKeever
TUESDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Blood letting to reduce levels of iron in men with peripheral arterial disease may reduce their chance of developing cancer, according to a new study.
Lower levels of iron in the blood have previously been linked with a lower cancer incidence in observational studies.
The results were based on a randomized controlled trial of men with peripheral arterial disease lead by the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, Vt. According to the findings, published in the July 8 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, participants who underwent phlebotomy were 37 percent less likely to develop cancer over four-plus years of follow-up than those who didn't have their blood drawn for iron removal.
The findings were consistent with previous studies done on animals.
The researchers suspect that iron kick starts the production of free radicals that damage cellular components, including DNA, leading to cancer development.
"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 wrote.
An accompanying editorial in the journal noted, however, that the trial was not designed to investigate cancer incidence, and the results should "be interpreted with caution."
The Iron Disorders Institute has more about adequate iron levels.