Less risk of cancer from multivitamin supplements?

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According to a study, multivitamin preparations are said to reduce the risk of cancer. Experts criticize the study as too imprecise and do not recommend taking additional supplements with artificial vitamins.

An evaluation by the American Association for Cancer Research in a current dietary supplement study showed slight effects in reducing the risk of cancer when male subjects regularly consume multivitamin preparations. The study, which was published in the journal “JAMA”, wants to refute other research that reports that vitamin supplements can increase the risk of cancer. However, experts believe that a healthy lifestyle is far more effective than swallowing vitamin pills daily.

The latest medical research warns of food supplements that are mixed with vitamins or minerals. These are largely unnecessary and some could even increase the risk of illness. However, multivitamin preparations could slightly reduce the risk of cancer in men, according to the authors of the study.

Multivitamin supplements are the most commonly consumed supplements in the United States. About a third of adults take the vitamin pills regularly. According to study author J. Michael Gaziano from Boston, "so far no observational studies have shown evidence of specific cancer incidence and mortality." The researchers wanted to use their study paper to determine "whether the long-term use of vitamin supplements lowers the risk of cancer events in men."

Over 15,000 men participated in the study. All subjects, who are themselves doctors, had already passed the age of 50 and were clinically healthy at the start of the study. During the observation period, around half of the participants took a multivitamin, the others received a placebo as a comparison group.

Eight percent reduced overall risk of cancer
After the end of the study, it was found that the group with the vitamin pills had an approximately eight percent lower risk of developing cancer than those who took a dummy treatment. "Compared to the placebo group, the men who consumed multivitamin supplements on a daily basis showed a statistically significant reduction in the incidence of cancer," said study author J. Michael Gaziano. In addition, "no significant effect of daily multivitamin intake on prostate cancer could be observed".

But is the effect really a gain with which people can balance their unhealthy lifestyle? Critics counter that a healthy diet, active exercise and not smoking can reduce the cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent each. In addition, the study was only carried out with men, which is why it is unclear how regular intake affects women or what the effects are for young men or those who are already ill.

The study is not sufficiently meaningful
"It's a very mild effect, and I'm not sure if the result is so significant that anyone can recommend vitamin supplements," criticized Ernest Hawk, vice president of cancer prevention at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Texas

The cancer expert had evaluated the study for the United States Cancer Research Association and presented it at the cancer research conference in Anaheim, California. Nevertheless, the work is “promising” because it also showed that “the investigated preparations cannot harm health,” said Hawk.

By advertising the products, the pharmaceutical industry suggests that these can be a kind of compensation for bad lifestyles. For example, the "Iowa Women's Health Study" showed that "artificially produced vitamin pills reduce the relative life expectancy of women". Calcium tablets alone were able to reduce the mortality risk of women by 3.8 percent in the course of the long-term study.

The study leader J. Michael Gaziano was also cautious in his summary. Many people take the means to make up for a deficit. But that could not be achieved. However, the study produced evidence that older men could lower their risk of cancer by taking it, Gaziano said.

Because there are now different indications and the study showed uncertainties, the scientists at the conference spoke in favor of further research in this area. The evaluation had shown that the subjects in the present study maintained a healthier lifestyle in the majority. For example, only four percent of the participants were smokers.

Who does not want to do without vitamin pills
Experts believe that those who do not want to do without the pills should take important advice to heart. On the one hand, the pills are not subject to the strict review rules of drug approval, since they are not drugs, but so-called nutritional supplements. Before considering the intake, the attending doctor should be consulted, as there can also be negative drug interactions. For example, taking vitamin K is not compatible with special heart medicines or blood thinners. An additional intake of vitamin C can also reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy. Above all, smokers and former smokers should avoid the vitamin pills, since a high amount of beta-carotene or vitamin A can increase the risk of lung cancer. A few other studies had recently determined this.

All in all, it can be said that natural vitamins in fruits and vegetables are much healthier than artificially produced pills. (sb)

Also read:
Vitamin pills can reduce life expectancy
Food supplements useless in heart attacks
Too much multivitamin juice is harmful to health
Vitamin E pills damage the bones

Author and source information

Video: Multivitamins May Reduce Cancer Risk in Men Video - Brigham and Womens Hospital


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