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No Benefit for Multivitamins in Preventing Women's Colorectal Cancer

Regular use of multivitamins didn’t reduce risk for colorectal and other cancers in a diverse group of 162,000 women from sites across the United States.  After eight years of follow-up, there was no significant difference in cancer, heart disease, or death between multivitamin users and those who didn’t take the supplements.

About 40 percent of women in the Women’s Health Initiative took multivitamins on a regular basis.  In the almost 9,600 cases of breast, colorectal, endometrial, stomach, lung, and ovarian cancer, there were no differences between postmenopausal women who used multivitamins and those who didn’t.  Equally there were no difference in 8,800 cases of heart attack, stroke, or blood clots or in the nearly 10,000 deaths that occurred in the eight years of the study.

Lead author Marian L. Neuhouser, Ph.D., from the Public Health Sciences Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle commented,

Dietary supplements are used by more than half of all Americans, who spend more than $20 billion on these products each year. However, scientific data are lacking on the long-term health benefits of supplements. To our surprise, we found that multivitamins did not lower the risk of the most common cancers and also had no impact on heart disease.

Dr. Neuhouser advised women,

Get nutrients from food. Whole foods are better than dietary supplements. Getting a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is particularly important.

SOURCE: Neuhouser et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, Volume 169, Number 3, February 9,2009.

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