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Multivitamin supplements may reduce cancer risk

October 18, 2012

According to a new US study, a daily intake of a combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals can decrease total cancer incidence by 8%.

In the large-scale randomized controlled trial (“Physicians’ Health Study II”), 14,641 male US physicians received either a daily multivitamin or a placebo (1). Over an average follow-up period of 11.2 years, cases of cancer were documented in both groups. The study results showed that participants taking a multivitamin had a significant 8% reduction in total cancer incidence. No statistically significant reductions in individual
site-specific cancers were observed, including colorectal, lung, and bladder cancer, or in cancer mortality.

The researchers concluded that the reduction in total cancer risk in the study shows that the broader combi-nation of low-dose vitamins and minerals, such as the multivitamin used in the trial, rather than high-dose vitamins and mineral tested in the past, may be paramount for cancer prevention. Although the main reason to take multivitamins seems to be the prevention of micronutrient deficiency, the new data provide support for the potential use of multivitamins – the most popular dietary supplement in the US – in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men.

Experts commented that an 8% decrease in overall cancer rates is not insignificant. Given that more than 1.6 million new cancer cases are diagnosed in the US each year, this would translate into about 130,000 cancers prevented every year. In addition, this would mean reduced health care costs and human suffering. Multivi-tamins are not considered a substitute for a good diet and healthy lifestyle but long-term consistent use of a daily multivitamin could be a convenient and affordable method to promote health. Overall the study showed that multivitamins can be of value and are completely safe to take.

References

  1. Gaziano J. M. et al. Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer in Men – The Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. Published online October 2012.