DNA Co-Discoverer: Antioxidants cause cancer?

We never believed the antioxidant hypothesis…

… (as our graveyards are full of cancer victims who consumed orange juice, red wine and mega-vitamins), but there is no evidence (outside James Watson’s reputation-based speculation) that they are causing cancer either.


“James Watson, co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, lit into targets large and small. On government officials who oversee cancer research, he wrote in a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Open Biology, ‘We now have no general of influence, much less power … leading our country’s War on Cancer.’ On the $100 million U.S. project to determine the DNA changes that drive nine forms of cancer: It is ‘not likely to produce the truly breakthrough drugs that we now so desperately need,” Watson argued. On the idea that antioxidants such as those in colorful berries fight cancer: “The time has come to seriously ask whether antioxidant use much more likely causes than prevents cancer’.” [Reuters]

7 thoughts on “DNA Co-Discoverer: Antioxidants cause cancer?”

  1. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Perhaps he simply disbelieves the article’s assertions. It’s a common trait on a site dedicated to calling out people misusing science.

  2. From the linked article:

    Research backs [Watson] up. A number of studies have shown that taking antioxidants such as vitamin E do not reduce the risk of cancer but can actually increase it, and can even shorten life. But drugs that block antioxidants – “anti-antioxidants” – might make even existing cancer drugs more effective.

    Did you post without reading the article, or is someone paying you to post your opinion? I see no other choice.

  3. Mr. Kern, I must respectively disagree. I have seen nothing that indicates that antioxidants have any clinically meaningful effect on any form of cancer. Single-digit percentage reductions, especially of “risk factors” that are tentatively correlated to cancer incidence in the first place, mean absolutely nothing on a clinically meaningful level.

    Show me a well controlled, long term study that shows a dose-response effect of anti-oxidant intake on cancer at a clinically meaningful level (25% reduction or greater).

  4. This is lunacy. Antioxidants are causing cancer? Really? Do you read any research at all, ever? Apparently not. I am speechless in the face of this idiocy. Mr. Watson, you are credited with co-discovery of the double-helix, a remarkable achievement, but I am quite sure your insight had nothing to do with a review of the available science. If it did, you would base this opinion on a review of the available science, which in this case overwhelmingly assesses dietary antioxidants as cancer-preventive compounds. Are you entirely inept at even a cursory review of the body of evidence in this question, or is someone paying for your opinion? I see no other choice.

  5. To be fair, he is just raising a question based on some solid cellular biology on the role of oxidative stress. However, he does like to say things which will get him headlines. There is very little written about Jim Watson ever being modest!

  6. He brings forth a good point. There is just as much evidence (none whatsoever) that anti-oxidants cause cancer as that the prevent it. if this was satire, to show how foolish the “health” movement is, it would be brilliant. Alas, Watson was the lesser of the pair.

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