Anaheim, CA—A study released on Wednesday at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in Anaheim announced that multivitamin use might decrease risks of cancer. Research performed by the National Institute of Health indicated that older males who took a multivitamin over the course of 10 years developed 8% fewer cancers than those taking a placebo pill.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was a randomized double-blind study that followed nearly 15,000 older adult male doctors for over a decade. This was one of the largest and longest studies performed that focused solely on the effects of a multivitamin, and not individual vitamins alone. Overall, the doctors who were taking the daily multivitamin saw an 8% decrease risk of cancer, except for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer was still the most prevalent form of cancer that developed among the participants.

While taking multivitamins had a positive effect,  J. Michael Gaziano, M.D., a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System, advises that there are numerous important risk factors to focus on for cancer prevention such as smoking, diet, exercise and wearing sunscreen.

There were several potential limitations to this study. While the men participating in the study may have been older (initially 50 and older), many of them were in good health and had very low smoking rates. However, the fact they were doctors may have made them more diligent about taking the pills, which led to more accurate results. 

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) responded to this study stating, “This study reinforces the value of long-term consistent use of daily multivitamins as a convenient and affordable insurance policy for good health." Currently about one-third of Americans are taking a daily multivitamin, and while the study showed a small decrease in the risks of cancer in the physicians, more research needs to be performed to see if the results extend to the rest of the population. The CRN reminds Americans that there are numerous factors that contribute to cancer, but taking a multivitamin is a beneficial and safe supplement to a healthy lifestyle.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2012 (online 10/22/12)