Do Vitamins Cause Cancer?

My aunt and uncle were true believers.  Every morning they would open a tackle box  filled with rainbow colored pills and capsules.  They took so  many supplements that their holistic physician urged them to cut back.   They ignored him and   were healthy and active until their late 80’s. Even  as she reached 90, my aunt looked lovely with a  thick hair and bright blue eyes.

Watching them dip and swoop about their box of pills  turned me off vitamin supplements, but I couldn’t argue with success– so I hedged my  nutritional bet with a  daily  multi-vitamin.  I was careful to choose  supplements that stayed within recommended limits.  Smugly I felt I had gamed the odds.  I covered my basic nutritional needs, but I didn’t risk excessive levels. My little red multi-vitamin gave me a nice sense of security.

Now, not one but two new studies found that  daily vitamin supplements were  linked  to an increase in cancer.   Researchers at the University of Minnesota tracked 38,000 women over 18 years in  still ongoing study called the Iowa Woman’s Health Study.  The women were over 60  when they started to report on their daily vitamin  supplement use. The results?  Not only did the supplements fail to protect against disease, the real shocker was that they were linked  to a 2.5% increased mortality.  Not good news.

The second study  by the  National Cancer Institute looked at the impact of vitamin E on risks of prostate cancer.  It had been assumed that vitamin E reduced the risk of prostate cancer, but things didn’t work  out as planned.  The ten year study found that men who took vitamin E had a 17% increase in prostate cancer.  Now I don’t even  have a prostate, but I’ve been taking  it for supposed cardiac benefits.  Should I be worried?

Do you take vitamin supplements?  Do these studies worry  you?  And what about all  the vitamins  that are in anti-aging creams? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

7 thoughts on “Do Vitamins Cause Cancer?

  1. I found it hard to believe that taking supplements like calcium and B6 caused an increased risk of death. When I dug deeper and read the study, I could see that it was very flawed and the simple headlines that resulted were incomplete at best. Even the researchers said they could not attribute the deaths (that occurred to the women who died during the 19 years that their health records were evaluated) to supplement use because they didn’t know why these women were taking supplements like iron (for anemia) or magnesium (often taken for AFIB) in the first place. See my blogpost on this topic, which includes quotes from other medical professionals about this study. One notable doctor at UCLA suggested that we shouldn’t change what we’re doing based on this study.

    Wendy Hoffman
    http://www.menopausetheblog.com

  2. Thank you so much for your reply Wendy. I’m not surprised that the study was flawed. It is based on recall, not vitamin levels, but the numbers were large enough to make me stop and think. I’m still taking my multivitamin and I feel better about it.

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