Vitamin E consists of eight different variants: α-, β-, γ-, and δ-tocopherols (saturated phytyl tail) and α-, β-, γ-, and δ-tocotrienols (unsaturated phytyl tail). Cancer prevention studies with vitamin E have primarily utilized the variant α-tocopherol. To no avail, a majority of these studies focused on variant α-tocopherol with inconsistent results. However, γ-tocopherol, and more recently δ-tocopherol, have shown greater ability to reduce inflammation, cell proliferation, and tumor burden. Recent results have shown that γ-enriched mixed tocopherols inhibit the development of mammary hyperplasia and tumorigenesis in animal models. In this review, we discuss the possible differences between the variant forms, molecular targets, and cancer-preventive effects of tocopherols. We recommend that a γ-enriched mixture, γ- and δ-tocopherol, but not α-tocopherol, are promising agents for breast cancer prevention and warrant further investigation.
Keywords: vitamin E; anti-inflammatory; apoptosis; breast cancer; case-control studies; cell proliferation; estrogen receptor (ER); nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2); peroxisome proliferator activated receptor γ (PPARγ); tocopherols.