Vitamin & Mineral Supplementation Higher In Cancer Survivors

Vitamin supplementsUsage of vitamin and minerals supplements is much higher amongst cancer survivors than it is in the general population according to a recent research review funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that between 64 and 81 percent of cancer survivors had reported using some form of vitamin or mineral supplement while between 26 and 77 percent reported taking some form of multivitamin.

In the general population some form of vitamin or mineral is used by around half the population with a third taking a multivitamin. Supplement use was found to be highest amongst women and those with higher education levels. Breast cancer survivors had the highest supplement use with up to three-quarters of survivors having used supplements. Prostate cancer survivors had the lowest use of supplements with only 26% reporting having used vitamin or mineral supplements.

The study also found that between 14 and 32 percent of survivors began taking vitamin supplements after they were diagnosed with cancer. Furthermore, cancer patients were often unwilling to disclose information about the supplements they were taking to their doctors with between 31 and 68 percent not telling their doctors this information.

While the study raises the possibility that vitamin and mineral supplementation can improve cancer outcomes, comparisons with vitamin and mineral supplementation among those who die of cancer needs to be carried out to determine whether supplement use is linked with an increased probability of survival. The study also raises concerns about patients not disclosing full information about their supplement use to their doctors as some supplements may have adverse effects, especially when combined with more conventional cancer treatments.

According to senior author Cornelia Ulrich “Some vitamins, such as folic acid, may be involved in cancer progression while others, such as St. John’s wort, can interfere with chemotherapy. However, we really need more research to understand whether use of these supplements can be beneficial or do more harm than good.”