Taking a daily multivitamin pill may lower the risk of developing cancer in men, according to a study called the Physician’s Health Study II (PHSII), published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
It has been a controversial topic in mainstream medicine for some time whether taking vitamins and supplements can help prevent certain medical conditions, or in some cases improve those. About half of all Americans take some form of a vitamin supplement, and at least one-third take a multivitamin. But several studies that have been published in the last few years have not supported taking vitamins and supplements, and in some cases have demonstrated some harm associated with large doses of certain supplements. The 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans state that there is no evidence to support taking a multivitamin or mineral supplement to prevent chronic disease.
This study was a large clinical trial of nearly 15,000 physicians who were all over the age of 50 and took a daily multivitamin. The objective of the study was to determine if long-term vitamin supplementation reduces the overall risk of cancer in men. The study did exclude skin cancer that was nonmelanoma. The results of the study demonstrated a small, but statistically significant, reduction in cancer cases in men taking the daily multivitamin. Men taking a daily multivitamin experienced 8 percent fewer cancers than those taking dummy pills, this broke down to 17 cancers per 1,000 people taking multivitamins per year compared with 18 cancers per 1,000 people taking the dummy pills per year.
While the overall occurrence of cancers in men was reduced, when the effect of taking the daily multivitamin was analyzed for specific types of cancer, such as prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, there was no statistically significant reduction of risk found.
There other measures are likely to protect against cancer more effectively than the daily use of multivitamins such as quitting smoking, dietary changes, sunscreen application and exercise. The American Cancer Society recommends that people eat a balanced diet, but that those who take supplements choose a balanced multivitamin that contains no more than 100 percent of the daily value of most nutrients.
So what does this mean for you? Well as a pharmacist, my recommendation is that many individuals may benefit from certain vitamins and supplements that are customized to their individual needs. Now we have evidence from this study, that taking a daily multivitamin may be considered in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men. There are many other studies that have looked at the benefits of other vitamins and supplements on certain conditions, such as Vitamin D.
Remember, not all vitamins are the same. The regulation of vitamins and supplements is not near what it is for prescription drugs. I believe as a pharmacist, that the quality and source of vitamins and supplements is critical, and also that you follow recommendations of a knowledgeable pharmacist about taking vitamins or supplements, and not heed the advice of supplement store where you are getting your advice from a cashier who has no clinical training. Also, always keep in mind that vitamins and supplements may interact with certain drugs and/or medical conditions. It is critical when consulting with your pharmacist about vitamins and supplements that you let him or her know what medications you take, and what medical conditions you may have.
At Greentree Pharmacy, our pharmacist has expertise in making recommendations for vitamins and supplements, and we carry a high-end line of quality supplements.
Best In Health,
Paul Hueseman, PharmD
301 S Kirkwood Rd.
Kirkwood, MO 63122