Multivitamin use may protect men from cancer

By Lynda Williams, Senior medwireNews Reporter

Men who take a daily multivitamin supplement have a modest reduction in their risk for developing cancer, suggest results from the Physicians' Health Study II.

Data for 14,641 men aged over 50 years at baseline gave a statistically significant hazard ratio for any cancer, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer, of 0.92 for the use of vitamin E (400 IU every second day), vitamin C (500 mg daily) and beta carotene (50 mg lurotin every second day) compared with placebo.

This translates to 17.0 and 18.3 cancer events per 1000 person-years for multivitamin and placebo users, respectively, report J Michael Gaziano (Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and co-authors.

The risk reduction for total cancer was true for the 1312 men with (HR=0.73) and the remaining men without (HR=0.94) a history of cancer at baseline.

"Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men," the team comments in JAMA.

The randomized trial had a median follow-up of 11.2 years , during which time 2669 men had a confirmed new diagnosis of cancer, including 1373 prostate cancer cases and 210 cases of colorectal cancer.

The team did not find a significant relationship between multivitamin use and the risk for prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and individual analyses of other site-specific malignancies. Nor did multivitamin use have a significant impact on the risk for cancer mortality.

However, analysis of the risk for total cancer excluding prostate cancer gave a significant HR of 0.88 for use of multivitamins versus placebo.

Noting that around half of prostate cancers reported were early stage, low-grade disease with high survival rates, the team suggests: "The significant reduction in total cancer minus prostate cancer suggests that daily multivitamin use may have a greater benefit on more clinically relevant cancer diagnoses."

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