If you want to add an iron supplement to your diet, or if you’re already taking one, you may want to consider having your cholesterol checked.

A recent study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina found that a combination of high blood levels of iron and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol can increase a person’s risk of cancer by as much as 168 percent (American Journal of Epidemiology, June 2005, vol. 161, no. 12).

Researchers believe that high levels of iron and blood lipids interact to create oxidative stress, which may lead to the development of cancer. The study, conducted over a 17-year period, monitored 3,278 participants over the age of 30 with elevated iron and lipid levels to reach its results. According to the study, having elevated levels of iron alone increases a person’s likelihood of cancer by 66 percent, while high VLDL cholesterol ups the risk of cancer by 54 percent.