Multivitamins Linked to Prostate Cancer

Wow, this’ll make you think twice about downing those Flintstone vitamins. New research claims taking too many multivitamins may increase the risk of prostate cancer in men—eek! More from the Associated Press:
Government scientists turned to a study tracking the diet and health of almost 300,000 men. About a third reported taking a daily multivitamin, and 5 percent were heavy users, swallowing the pills more than seven times a week.

Within five years of the study's start, 10,241 men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some 1,476 had advanced cancer; 179 died.

Heavy multivitamin users were almost twice as likely to get fatal prostate cancer as men who never took the pills, concludes the study in Wednesday's Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Here's the twist: Overall, the researchers found no link between multivitamin use and early-stage prostate cancer.

The researchers speculate that perhaps high-dose vitamins had little effect until a tumor appeared, and then could spur its growth.
Kind of a damning indictment—don’t you think? But this begs the question, how safe are multivitamins? Could they actually lead to health problems? In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains that multivitamins containing high-dose vitamin A and beta-carotene do elevate cancer-risk. Take a look:
The main concern with taking a multivitamin is that it may contain a high dose of vitamin A or beta-carotene. Ingesting large amounts of these nutrients may interfere with the absorption of other carotenoids, such as lutein and lycopene, thus potentially increasing the risk of cancer.1 10-1 There is also concern that supplemental vitamin A induces calcium loss in urine, contributing to osteoporosis.
Now, Dr. Fuhrman isn’t against vitamins. According to him very few people eat perfectly, which makes supplementing a good idea—it’ll help make sure your body gets all the important substances it needs. So considering all this cancer-talk, what kind of multi should a person take? More from Eat to Live:
There are multiple vitamins available today with natural mixed carotenoids in place of vitamin A and beta carotene that also contain extra plant-derived phytochemicals. Look for this type of multiple.
1. 1 Mayne ST. Beta-carotene, carotenoids, and disease prevention in humans. FASEB. 1996;10(7):690-701.

Goodman GE. Prevention of lung cancer. Current Opinion in Oncology 1998;10(2):122-126.

Kolata G. Studies Find Beta Carotene, Taken by Millions, Can't Forestall Cancer or Heart Disease. New York Times, Jan 19, 1996.

Omenn GS, Goodman GE, Thornquist MD, et al. Effects of a combination of beta carotene and vitamin A on lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine 1996;334(18);1150-1155.

Hennekens CH, Buring JE, Manson JE, et al. Lack of effect of long-term supplementation with beta carotene on the incidence of malignant neoplasms and cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine 1996;334(18):1145-1149.

Albanes D, Heinonen OP, Taylor PR, et al. Alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplements and lung cancer incidence in the alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene cancer prevention study: effects of base-line characteristics and study compliance. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 1996;88(21):1560-1570.

Rapola JM, Virtamo J, Ripatti S, et al. Randomized trial of alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene supplements on incidence of major coronary events in men with previous myocardial infarction. Lancet 1997;349(9067):1715-1720.
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
tom - May 17, 2007 8:59 AM

I would like to know if this study changes the recommendation to even take a multivitamin. Are you sure that the vitamin A or beta-carotene was the main factor of risk? Could it be other vitamin contents or the way it was made?

Pat Bouillez - February 4, 2010 12:21 AM

Can you recommend a multi-vitamin for women that does NOT
have beta-carotene, or consist of the natural mixed carotenoids as you mentioned above?

Thank You.

Deana Ferreri - February 4, 2010 10:31 AM

Dr. Fuhrman designed his Gentle Care Formula multivitamin with all this in mind.

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