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Daily Multivitamin Use Reduced Cancer Occurrence in Men

October 17, 2012
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  • Total cancer occurrence was reduced by about 8 percent.
  • Nonsignificant trends observed in reduction of some site-specific cancer rates.
  • Researchers suggest continuing other preventive behaviors, such as exercise.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Daily use of a common multivitamin reduced the risk for total cancer occurrence in a population of men followed for more than a decade, according to new data from the Physicians’ Health Study II presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held here Oct. 16-19, 2012.

“More than half of Americans take some kind of vitamin supplement, and the most commonly taken is a multivitamin,” said John Michael Gaziano, M.D., chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a researcher at VA Boston. “No one has ever done a long-term trial to determine the potential health benefits or downsides of taking a multivitamin for a long period of time.”

Gaziano and colleagues investigated the long-term effects of daily multivitamin use on certain site-specific cancers and total cancer occurrence and mortality. They used data from the Physicians’ Health Study II, which included 14,641 male physicians aged 50 or older from the United States.

Researchers randomly assigned participants to a multivitamin or no multivitamin between 1997 and June 2011. During the median follow-up of 11.2 years, researchers recorded 2,669 cancer cases, including 1,373 prostate cancer cases and 210 colorectal cancer cases.

When examining outcomes at the study’s end, the researchers found an 8 percent reduction in total cancer occurrence among participants assigned to multivitamin use.

“We also saw trends for some of the major site-specific cancers, though the numbers were small and not significant,” Gaziano said. “There also seemed to be a greater effect in people with previous cancer.”

Although prostate cancer was the most commonly occurring cancer in this population, there was no direct effect of multivitamin use on prostate cancer occurrence. However, when the researchers looked at the effect of a multivitamin on other site-specific cancers, they found about a 12 percent reduction in occurrence, according to Gaziano. Additionally, they saw a nonsignificant 12 percent reduction in cancer mortality.

“There are reasons to take a multivitamin even in our adult population, who are seemingly well nourished, as a way to get recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals,” Gaziano said. “This study suggests, at least for men, that there might be benefits to taking multivitamins in terms of cancer as well.”

Gaziano emphasized that the effects were modest and that multivitamin use should only be considered in addition to other habits, such as stopping smoking and increasing exercising, which literature has shown are effective in preventing cancer and other diseases.

Gaziano and colleagues plan to follow this population to determine if this effect strengthens over time. In addition, more studies on multivitamin use are needed in women.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.

For more information about the AACR, visit

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
In Anaheim, Oct. 16-19:
(714) 740-4540

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