Middle-aged men who took vitamins were 8 per cent less likely to develop cancer of any kind
Taking a daily multivitamin pill can lower the risk of cancer, says the first study of its kind.
Regular use for more than 10 years cuts the chances of men developing the disease by eight per cent – a modest but worthwhile reduction, claim researchers.
They cannot identify a single vitamin or combination that works, but say the benefit comes from a broad combination of low dose vitamins.
The US study only involved men so the same effect cannot be assumed for women, but experts believe it is likely to be similar.
Almost 15,000 doctors took part in the study run by the well-respected Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
It is significant as the first randomised trial of its kind, said lead author Michael Gaziano, chief of the hospital’s division of aging.
He said ‘The Physicians’ Health Study II is the first clinical trial to test the effects of multivitamins on a major disease such as cancer.
‘Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans take multivitamins, their long-term effects were unknown until now.’
Millions of Britons buy multivitamins as ‘health insurance’, whether or not they have a healthy diet, in the hope that it might prevent cancer or other diseases.
However, there is little evidence for such benefits and some studies on high dose vitamins have shown harm.
The new PHS II trial included 14,641 male US physicians, initially aged 50 years or older, including 1,312 men with a history of cancer at the start of the study in 1997, with treatment and follow-up through to 2011.
Participants received a daily multivitamin or equivalent placebo (dummy) pill and were followed for an average of 11.2 years.
During multivitamin treatment, there were 2,669 confirmed cases of cancer, including 1,373 cases of prostate cancer and 210 cases of colorectal cancer, with some men experiencing multiple events.
A total of 2,757 (18.8 per cent) men died during follow-up, including 859 (5.9 per cent) due to cancer.
Analysis of the data found men taking a multivitamin had a modest 8 per cent reduction in total cancer incidence, including colorectal, lung and bladder.
There was no statistically significant effect on deaths from cancer.
The daily pill was a brand called Centrum Silver for the over 50s containing a typical range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A,C,D,E, B6 and B12, calcium, selenium and zinc.
The study was published early online in the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with its presentation at the Annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting.
The 'modest' reduction is thought to mirror the benefits of eating a healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables
Dr Gaziano said many people take multivitamins daily because it might ward off cancer despite the paucity of evidence.
He said there was speculation about the possible role of individual vitamins and minerals in cancer prevention, but it was difficult to identify any single mechanism through which individual or multiple components of their tested multivitamin may have reduced cancer risk.
‘The reduction in total cancer risk in PHS II argues that the broader combination of low-dose vitamins and minerals contained in the PHS II multivitamin, rather than an emphasis on previously tested high-dose vitamins and mineral trials, may be paramount for cancer prevention’ said the study report.
‘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’ it concluded.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, an independent dietician of the industry-backed Simplyhealth advisory research panel, said many nutritionists were convinced of the potential health benefits from optimal nutrition levels achieved using multivitamin pills.
She said ‘This is good news. These are recommended levels for vitamins and minerals, not the high dose strategies that have failed in trials.
‘It shows what benefits there can be from long-term use of a multivitamin pill for 11 years in reducing the incidence of total cancer.
‘This trial was only carried out in men but I see no reason why women should not benefit as the key cancers in which it made a difference, colorectal, lung and bladder, are also major cancers in women.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2219105/Taking-daily-multivitamin-pill-reduces-risk-type-cancer-8--say-scientists.html#ixzz29a6bAhHQ
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