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Study shows that multivitamins give advantage in cancer prevention in men

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that taking a multivitamin may help prevent cancer in healthy middle-aged men. Scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School recruited nearly 15,000 male physicians, 50 years or older, and followed them for more than 10 years. Half took a daily multivitamin Centrum Silver while the others took a placebo. Men in the vitamin group had a modest eight percent reduction in cancer cases compared to the others.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "This study suggests, at least for men, that there might be benefits to taking multivitamins in terms of cancer," study author Dr. John Michael Gaziano said in a press release. The chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Gaziano also says that much work remains to be done.

Dr. Boris Pasche, director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that "overall the study provides the first very nice piece of evidence that well-balanced - not overdose, not mega dose - combination of vitamins and minerals seems to have an effect at preventing cancer. But more research is needed to validate this."

In addition, researchers were not able to determine which types of cancers may be prevented when taking the vitamins.

Researchers are also not sure that the results will be relevant in other groups of people, such as women or smokers. The men in this study were generally healthy physicians, not overweight or obese. Most were non-smokers.

"It will be difficult to make generalizations to the broad public from this one study, but I was impressed by the data," Dr. Ernest Hawk, vice president and division head for the Division of Cancer Prevention & Population Sciences at MD Anderson Center in Houston says.

Most experts thought taking a vitamin would be beneficial to our health in 1997. In later years, many scientists were alarmed by evidence suggesting potential harm from vitamin use. In fact, more recent studies found vitamin supplements didn't reduce the risk of cancer, and, in some cases, raised the risk of men and women developing cancer.

While they did not participate in the study, Pasche and Hawk, who did not participate in the research, said they are encouraged that after 10 years of study researchers did not see an increase in lung, colorectal, prostate and other cancers, but rather a modest decline in overall cancer cases.

"I think this provides more data... that these sorts of supplements aren't associated with harm, so it removes the concern that many people had about the use of vitamin supplements drawing from recent data," explained Hawk.

Hawk says he is more cautious with his approach. He said that reducing cancer risk may not be reached from a pill but rather by living healthy: eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking.

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