There have been several conflicting reports as to whether vitamin supplements can prevent some chronic diseases.
But now researchers have announced the findings from a large clinical trial that found men taking a daily multivitamin experienced 8 percent fewer overall cancers than men taking a placebo.
Researchers led by John Michael Gaziano, M.D., chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a researcher at VA Boston, followed nearly 15,000 male doctors, age 50 or older, for a decade as part of the Physicians’ Health Study II.
This study is one of the largest and longest-running studies looking at the effect of daily multivitamins use, particularly on overall cancer risk.
The study was a randomized, double-blinded clinical trial, considered to be one of the most rigorous types of study.
In an Oct. 17, 2012 press conference in Anaheim, as part of the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, Dr. Gaziano said the reduction in total cancer occurrence was small but statistically significant.
“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,” Dr. Gaziano said.
“This study suggests, at least for men, that there might be benefits to taking multivitamins in terms of cancer as well.”
The study also showed reductions (up to 12 percent) of some major site-specific cancers, though the numbers were small and not significant.
Prostate cancer, the most commonly occurring cancer in this population, showed no direct effect of multivitamin use on its occurrence. Study results also showed a 12 percent nonsignificant reduction in cancer death.
It’s estimated that half of all Americans take some form of a vitamin supplement, and at least one-third take a multivitamin, with annual vitamin sales topping more than $20 billion.
But many recent vitamin studies have been disappointing, citing not only a lack of benefit, but harm associated with large doses of certain supplements.