Multivitamins Cut Men’s Cancer Risks

Cancer incidence lower in men who take daily multivitamins

October 17, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) The controversy swirling around vitamins in general will probably always be heated. Some believe taking vitamins and minerals results only in expensive urine. A new study flushes that theory down the toilet.

Men who take daily multivitamins over a long period of time have lower risks of developing cancer, according to a newly presented and published study.

"Talk to your doctor about multivitamin use."

Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) conducted the study that followed some 15,000 men for more than 10 years. The Physicians' Health Study II is the first ever to look at the long-term effects of multivitamins use among men.

Study co-author Howard D. Sesso, ScD, an associate epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH said, "Many studies have suggested that eating a nutritious diet may reduce a man's risk of developing cancer. Now we know that taking a daily multivitamin, in addition to addressing vitamin and mineral deficiencies, may also be considered in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men."

Study members let investigators know when were diagnosed with cancer and with what type. Researchers confirmed the diagnosis with a medical records review.

Here’s what the study uncovered:

  • Men taking multivitamins had 8 percent fewer cases of cancer than did men taking a placebo.
  • Multivitamin use was also associated with lower cancer-related mortality.
  • Specific vitamins or minerals could not be identified as having a significant impact on cancer risks.
  • Prostate cancer incidence was not affected by multivitamin use.
  • The biggest cancer declines between vitamin and non-vitamin users were seen in colorectal, lung and bladder cancers, lymphoma, leukemia and melanoma.
  • Interestingly, men on a vitamin regimen developed more cases of pancreatic cancer than those taking a sugar pill – 43 vs. 36.

"Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men,” the authors concluded.

Carol Wolin-Riklin MA, RD, LD, metabolic and bariatric nutrition coordinator at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told dailyRx news, “We looked at over 200 patients prior to bariatric surgery and noted baseline nutritional inadequacies.

“Vitamin levels had a negative correlation with BMI (Body Mass Index). So, as Americans are getting larger in the waistline and BMI’s are increasing the nutritional deficiencies are becoming more prevalent and showing themselves as increased rates of certain cancers, Wolkin-Riklin said.

The authors note that it’s unknown whether or not these benefits apply to women or to men under the age of 50.

Study researchers are planning to examine the effect of multivitamin use for an even longer period of time.

This study was presented October 17 at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research and published online the same day in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants and a grant from BASF Corporation. Study agents and packaging were provided by BASF Corporation and Pfizer (formerly Wyeth, American Home Products, and Lederle). Study packaging was also provided by DSM Nutritional Products, Inc. (formerly Roche Vitamins).

Several of the investigators reported receiving research funding from various commercial enterprises, including BASF Corporation, Cambridge Theranostics, DSM Nutritional Products. Dr. Glynn has received research funding from Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, Novartis and has a consulting agreement with Merck.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 16, 2012
Last Updated:
October 17, 2012