Monday, June 4, 2007

Prostate Cancer Caused by MultiVitamins?

Is There a Link Between Taking Your Multivitamin and Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that men who took more than one multivitamin daily had a 32 percent occurrence of advanced prostate cancer with a fatal outcome, nearly double that of those men who did not take the pills. But Dr. Michael Leitzmann, an institute investigator and author of the analysis, said the study is not a condemnation of multivitamins.
“Men should not stop taking multivitamins,” he said. “It was only the men who were taking multivitamins in excessive doses where we saw an increase in risk.”
The study was published this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Leitzmann and his colleagues studied 300,000 men in a six-year period who had filled out questionnaires about vitamin use. Taking more than seven multivitamin tablets per week was associated with advanced prostate cancer. Curiously, excessive vitamin intake was not a factor in early-stage tumors. Exactly how the pills could be associated with advanced disease remains unanswered.
European cancer experts writing in an accompanying editorial said the study questions “the beneficial value of antioxidant vitamin pills in generally well-nourished populations.”
In an even more sobering assessment of the data, the editorialists noted that “antioxidant supplements could have unintended consequences for our health.”
Dr. Iris Granek, an associate professor of clinical medicine at New York state’s Stony Brook University Medical Center, said the basic take-home message is not to exceed the recommended dosage of multivitamins. There are many variables, she said, in how vitamins are metabolized from one person to the next.
Still, a study by the American Cancer Society demonstrated two years ago that the death rate from prostate cancer was marginally higher in men who took multivitamins compared with those who avoided the pills. That research involved 500,000 men and set the scientific community astir with the findings. But scientists have not given up on vitamins.
Granek is principal investigator of Long Island’s contribution to an ongoing 12-year federal study examining whether vitamin E or the mineral selenium prevent the disease. The two supplements had shown in smaller studies in the 1990s that men were protected from prostate cancer. Government health officials six years ago embarked on the larger study to find stronger answers.

Dr. Zach's Comments:

  • According to the actual study, men who reported on a questionnaire that they took multivitamins in excess of the RDA were at a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer. That increased risk was 32% . Furthermore, taking a multivitamin as prescribed or indicated on the label had no correlation to an increased incidence of advanced prostate cancer.

  • Also, there are plenty of flaws to this conclusion of multivitamin = prostate cancer. Where these men taking a multivitamin with iron? Iron toxicity in men could certainly lead to health concerns and prostate issues. What was their diet like otherwise? Could the correlation be attributed to something else? In my opinion, this study only proves one thing.... Multivitamins do not prevent prostate cancer. To infer that they cause prostate cancer, however, is foolish.

  • Cancer cells benefit from the same nutritional support that normal cells do. So should we stop eating healthy foods and taking supplement with a fear of boosting the potency of cancer cells in our body? Or should we find ways to boost (or more accurately normalize) our body's natural anti-cancer defenses. Personally, I'm going to choose #2.

  • There are thousands of people in our country who do not get adequate nutrition from their food choices, and therefore I have found very few people who cannot in some way benefit from a multivitamin. Along with Omega three fatty acids (from fish oil supplements), multivitamins are the only two things I recommend for every patient, and one study that found correlation to cancer based on a questionnaire is not going to change my thought on the many benefits of good quality multivitamins.