Multivitamins may prevent cancer in men
Researchers aren't sure that the results will be seen in other groups of people, such as women or smokers.
October 17th, 2012
10:53 AM ET

Multivitamins may prevent cancer in men

Taking a multivitamin may help prevent cancer in healthy middle-aged men, according to a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study

Scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School recruited nearly 15,000 male physicians, 50 years or older, and followed them for more than a decade.  Half took the daily multivitamin Centrum Silver; the others took a placebo.

Men in the vitamin group had a modest 8% reduction in cancer cases compared to the others.

"This study suggests, at least for men, that there might be benefits to taking multivitamins in terms of cancer,” study author Dr. John Michael Gaziano said in a press release. He is the chief of the Division of Aging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

"Overall the study provides the first very nice piece of evidence that well-balanced - not overdose, not mega dose - combination of vitamins and minerals seems to have an effect at preventing cancer," said Dr. Boris Pasche, director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "But more research is needed to validate this."

The researchers were not able to determine which types of cancers might be prevented when taking the vitamins.

They are also not sure that the results will be seen in other groups of people such as women or smokers. The men in this study were generally healthy physicians, not overweight or obese and most were non-smokers.

"It will be difficult to make generalizations to the broad public from this one study, but I was impressed by the data," said Dr. Ernest Hawk, vice president and division head for the Division of Cancer Prevention & Population Sciences at MD Anderson Center in Houston, Texas.

Vitamins: Friend or foe?

Back when the study began in 1997, most experts thought taking a vitamin would be beneficial to our health. But in the subsequent years, many scientists were alarmed by evidence suggesting potential harm from vitamin use. Newer studies found vitamin supplements didn't reduce the risk of cancer, and, in some cases, raised the risk of men and women developing cancer.

This latest study may once again lead experts to re-visit the issue.  Pasche and Hawk, who did not participate in the research, said they are encouraged that after 10 years of study researchers did not see an increase in lung, colorectal, prostate and other cancers, but rather a modest decline in overall cancer cases.

Take home message

"I think this provides more data... that these sorts of supplements aren't associated with harm, so it removes the concern that many people had about the use of vitamin supplements drawing from recent data," explained Hawk.

Why might certain supplements offer protection again cancer? Experts aren't sure but said that the well-balanced formulation of nutrients in the multivitamin instead of mega doses may be part of the answer.

Pasche, who stopped taking vitamins back in the 2000s because of the cancer scare said, "This study will make me rethink this. You have a good rational to say from this study that it's not risky and could potentially help prevent a certain number of cancers."

Hawk is more cautious with his approach. He said that reducing cancer risk may not necessarily be garnered from a pill but rather by living healthy: eating right, getting plenty of exercise and not smoking.

Video: Can multivitamins help prevent cancer?

soundoff (256 Responses)
  1. Brian

    "according to a new study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.".....

    Some "articles" in this journal have turned out to have been written by "ghost writers" who were employees of the industry being discussed in the article! I have found The Lancet to have more credibility.

    October 17, 2012 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Yes, Brian, the Lancet was certainly right on with publishing the incredibly flawed Dr. Wakefield study that created the bogus mass hysteria around the MMR vaccine. The Lancet lost a lot of credibility with that one and is itself subject to its own ghost-writer problems. Either way, it's mostly about a personal preference as more recent studies suggest the incidence of ghost-writing is on the decline with both publications.

      October 17, 2012 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • CallMeCrazyBut....

      Steve – perhaps you have missed all the stories in regards to one Dr. POUL THORSEN, who was hired by the CDC to discount Dr. Andrew Wakefield? In case you missed it, let me enlighten you: as of April 2011, Dr. POUL THORSEN was arrested for at least 13 counts of embezzlement, wire fraud, and for filing FRAUDULENT STUDIES.

      Yep. A doctor who embezzles CDC funds and files fraudulent studies is a "reliable" researcher, one we can trust in his opinion with the health and well being of our families... NOT!

      October 17, 2012 at 18:55 | Report abuse |
    • Jason Book


      My dentist recommended a multivitamin called OnePro Diet (www.mid-continental.com/onepro-diet/) because I have dentures. Has anyone tried it?


      November 17, 2013 at 01:44 | Report abuse |
  2. gary

    so if i eat my vitamins in the fruits and vegetables they are found..i should be good.

    October 17, 2012 at 15:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • gager

      Except that fruit is mostly empty calories. High in carbs, low in nutrients. An egg a day would replace any need for vitamins

      October 17, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      So prove to me these are not random people who just happened to not get cancer by chance and not because of a vitamin. You have a 43% of getting cancer in your lifetime regardless of what you eat or do. Its a fact.
      All these studies are garbage and prove nothing.

      October 19, 2012 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
  3. wilma fingerdo

    From the link provided by 'bobincal' : http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1380451#RESULTS

    Funding/Support: This work was supported by grants CA 097193, CA 34944, CA 40360, HL 26490, and HL 34595 from the NIH and an investigator-initiated grant from BASF Corporation. Study agents and packaging were provided by BASF Corporation and Pfizer (formerly Wyeth, American Home Products, and Lederle) and study packaging was provided by DSM Nutritional Products Inc (formerly Roche Vitamins).

    Role of the Sponsors: The NIH, BASF Corporation, Pfizer, and DSM Nutritional Products Inc had no role in the study design and conduct of the study; in the collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

    October 17, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. soicanleavecommentsonblogs

    I thought vitamin supplements were useless to all as they are just flushed out of the body?

    October 17, 2012 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MCF335

      Proper assimilation is important; i.e.taking oil soluble vitamins with your most "oily" meal (meats,fish eggs,etc.),taking
      calcium (proper ratio of 1 part magnesium to 2 parts calcium) separate & aside from other vitamins; like before bedtime.
      Taking time release water solubles, like B-COMPLEX in balanced formula,not exceeding vitamin C, as the body can only
      absorb 250 mg at a time, etc. Lots of specificity here! Just cause they sell mega-dose (1000mg vit.c) doesn't mean
      more is better. I suggest reading"Balch & Balch's" "Nutritional Healing". Very helpful!

      October 17, 2012 at 16:23 | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      In this day and age, it is virtually impossible to be vitamin deficient, except in the case of chronic alcoholism, veganism, malabsorption disorders, status-post gastric bypass. But for most, it is very unlikely.

      October 17, 2012 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – your body needs vitamins; it doesn't just flush them out. It takes what it needs – assuming it's relatively healthy to begin with – and it may flush what it doesn't, or it may store it, especially in the case of fat-soluble vitamins.

      October 17, 2012 at 16:54 | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Steve, I do blood lab analysis of vitamin and nutrients as part of my daily practice. I have yet to find anyone that does not have a deficiency in something and often it is of consequence based on their genetic risks. ie: Family history of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, etc...

      October 18, 2012 at 09:11 | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      "I do blood lab analysis of vitamin and nutrients as part of my daily practice. I have yet to find anyone that does not have a deficiency in something"

      I'm sure that's true, but you're experiencing a severe case of sampling bias. The population in general doesn't get blood work done; those you're doing tests on are people who are already ill and trying to find out why. It's no surprise that you find a high percentage that have something wrong with them.

      October 21, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
  5. PVS

    It should be now broken down further to which particular vitamin is the most responsible for decreased cancer, because it's probably not all of them. Selenium has been heralded lately as a cancer-fighter.... and I believe it's in Centrum Silver. Certain countries that have lower or higher cancer rates have diets that are correspondingly lower or higher in certain vitamins and minerals.

    October 17, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      That would be a worthwhile follow-on study. You can't do that sort of targeted study, however, until you've done preliminary studies that help you determine what to target.

      October 17, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  6. ben dover

    some vitamins are absorbed quickly (water soluble ex. C, B), some more slowly and end up stored in the liver (fat soluble ex. A, D, E) and all the vitamins that cannot be absorbed are literally 'flushed'

    October 17, 2012 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Christian Rene Freiborg

      I think having a proper diet, exercise and enough vitamins can be a big help. Sometimes people with cancer are those who abused their body when they were young.

      November 11, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse |
  7. c s

    The problem with trying to determine anything is the length of the study and the amount used. Many studies about vitamins use small amounts like in the RDA which was originally developed during WW II using healthy young males. A really long term study would start at birth and continue to death, but that would take about 80 years. This study is still relatively short term and the amount of vitamins used is for the most part higher than the RDA. Hopefully this study will continue for another 30 or 40 years. The only problem is that many of the participants will know that vitamins really work and will drop out of the study or cheat. If you were in this study and you knew that taking vitamins would prevent some cancers, what would you do?

    So what should you really do? Wait another 30 or 40 years until it has definitely been proven that taking a mulch-vitamin prevents some cancers or take a multivitamin now?

    If you want to read about taking vitamins go to http://doctoryourself.com/ and decide for yourself. By the way, I have nothing to do with this site other than liking it.

    October 17, 2012 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. James

    Does Colin Powell have cancer? Is that why he's shopping for a multivitamin?

    October 17, 2012 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ben dover

      nice catch!

      October 17, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse |
  9. eroteme

    O Happy Day! A new study! Can't get enough! Give me more!

    October 17, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Steve

    Vitamins probably do not do anything other than providing some of what is devoid in our diet due to industrial processing of our food. If you get all the nutrients that were originally in fresh real food, your body can fight infections and cancers much better.

    October 17, 2012 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. mary

    OF COURSE they did NOT test women..~!! 🙁

    October 17, 2012 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mikrik13

    So, we're hawking vitamins today. If not that, something else. Nothing prevents cancer. It is all about making money one way or another.

    October 17, 2012 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dennis

    Centrum Silver has too much iron for men. If you get too much iron, you will plug up for weeks. No joke.

    October 17, 2012 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pikop andropov

      In Russia, we always take a 250mg dose of Magnesium to help with constipation. Work like charm.

      October 17, 2012 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
    • Ilich Vladimir Ulanov

      In, Soviet Russia, magnesium takes you!

      October 17, 2012 at 23:29 | Report abuse |
    • Paul318

      If you take multiple supplements, you need to total them up. I was over 5000% DV (RDA) for a 'B' vitamin. You can add em up yourself or buy/get an app that does it. Most folks pop the pills not realizing all the duplication. If you don't take any, that's fine, if you do, know how much you are taking or you'll have unwanted side effects....

      October 18, 2012 at 05:35 | Report abuse |
    • IronCelt

      No one, particularly those of Irish ancestry, should take vitamins with iron unless they have a lab-demonstrated iron deficiency. High levels of iron not only cause constipation but also, in people with genetic hemochromatosis (one of the most common yet underdiagnosed genetic diseases in the USA), can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

      October 20, 2012 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  14. polycarp pio

    Iniquity,transgression and sin are the ROOT cause of cancer, these allow an unclean spirit to enter and attach itself to your body, its like a rotten apple in a barrel, eventually it will cause other apples to go rotten, likewise the unclean spirit will effect cells in the area, and chemo kills some cells but the stronger ones escape and hide in various parts of the body and eventually cause the cancer to metastasize. The cure is get forgivness for your sins, forgive others from your heart and get the unclean spirit cast out of your body or the cancer will eventually return. PP Ph.d

    October 17, 2012 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Slupdawg

      You're a certifiable nut. You know that, don't you?

      October 17, 2012 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • Shelley

      Sure. And thunder is caused by Thor, stormy seas by Poseidon, and droughts because no one did a proper rain dance. Cancer caused by 'unclean spritis' huh? That's a new one. Sheesh. Sadly, I don't think there's a cure for stupid. Too bad for you.

      October 17, 2012 at 23:36 | Report abuse |
  15. donjgen

    Have you went down an bought your favorite vitamins yet?

    October 17, 2012 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jerry

    WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that living may be hazardous to your health.

    October 17, 2012 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Slupdawg

    Do Flintstones work too?

    October 17, 2012 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JC

    What about women?

    October 18, 2012 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. jack

    I've been taking vitamins for 25 years. I got into them back then and just never stopped, although I do take a one month break every year. The foods we eat are not as rich as they used to be due to soil depletion and chemicals and processing, etc, so I just wanted to have extra vitamins and minerals hanging around in my body just in case it needs them. I do extensive research and rotate brands and use highest quality. You don't always notice the difference they're making at the time, but you will some day.

    October 18, 2012 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • raythegenius

      That's good , did you ever try Nutrilite
      Can get from above URL

      October 18, 2012 at 07:49 | Report abuse |
  20. reasonablebe

    right. no other explanation- like lifestyle or genetics or other environmental factors. the newest fad and basis for get rich quick schemers.

    October 18, 2012 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. littliest hobo

    been taking multivitmins for 5 years everyday instaed of eating fruits . Had a cold twice .

    October 18, 2012 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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    October 18, 2012 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. 1dumbpeasant

    I also thought he looked like Colin Powell!

    October 18, 2012 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. VABlueRidge

    When you have breast cancer, they recommend you stay away from soy which contains estrogen. Many of the shelf vitamins have soy in them. So, women need to be careful. The estrogen in these vitamins may be higher than you want. For myself, one vitamin I took stopped my hot flashes. This should not have happened. I believe that the FDA should be requiring any company with embedded soy products that they state the amount of estrogen in their product. Women as a group should be writing to the FDA demanding it. That goes for the fast food industry also. Their hamburger products have soy in most of their food products.

    October 18, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VaBlueRidge

      So, I don't have my facts correct above. Soy does not contain estrogen, but contains a natural chemical, called phytoestrogens, that have effects in the body similar to those of estrogen. Because phytoestrogens act like estrogen in the body, there is a concern that exists about increased cancer risk from consuming high levels of soy. Some trials indicate that consuming a lot of phytoestrogens from soy might increase breast cancer risks. The reason is that soy unfortunately affects the estrogen receptors in the breast. So, we need more studies on this. It would be really sad, that by taking vitamins containing soy, to improve our health, that we have been really increasing our risk of breast cancer.

      October 18, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
  25. loves the grandkids

    So 8 percent fewer of the vitamin group did not get cancer. Simply a statistical blip. If the multivitamin "prevents" cancer, explain why subjects in the vitamin group got cancer. I gave up on these bogus "prevents/causes/cures cancer" studies years ago. They continually contradict each other. Their sole purpose is to enable researchers to get grants.

    October 18, 2012 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ventg4fun

    I've taken a multiple vitamin for years and i think my health is better for it. However, I've never thought that vitamins are the be-all, cure-all for whatever ails us. They are just nutrient fortification for the times when we don't always eat right.

    October 18, 2012 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. jonBOY

    i have used gnc brand MENS ultra mega greens for a year and its helps me out in the gym. when i dont take them as i usually do in the morning, my evening workout suffers big time. so i know that works. the vitamins help me through out the day.
    Go Romney! lulz.

    October 18, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. moribundman

    What's good for you today is bad for you tomorrow. You can't win.

    October 19, 2012 at 06:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Kirk

    I know I can't be the first to think this... But, isn't it equally likely that we now have definitive proof that placebos can increase your risk for cancer?

    OK, no, I'm not serious. Well, Kind of. My point is that a vitamin could, in theory, reduce your chances of getting cancer by the exact same odds of it reducing your chances of catching a cold. ie. If you were malnourished and thus more susceptible to getting infected by a cold virus, perhaps not being malnourished would also protect you from some of the viruses that can cause cancer.

    But, not all cancer are caused by virus, and to be blunt, cancer *loves* vitamins every bit as much as it loves hormones. In particular, it loves things like Vitamin B, which it needs in great abundance to construct new cells.

    Even further, I'd mention that people lived in houses with Radon and asbestos insulation, hanged out at above ground nuclear tests, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and didn't take many modern vitamins, and still didn't get cancer. Others, not so lucky, did none of that and ended up getting it. So, before we go declaring one companies vitamins can reduce your risk of cancer, I'd like to see a bigger test, and I'm talking *millions* of people over *decades* before I'd claim it was anything but an anomaly.

    October 19, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Andrew

    For those of you who love the conspiracy theories and always suspect malfescience, let me ask you: who IS supposed to pay for these studies? Research can be expensive, and when the government pays for it people raise holy hell, and when a company pays for it, people raise holy hell. Moreover, when it is unethical to do an experiment, you raise hell over the design not being experimental. Do you see how all this works to your advantage? You get to criticize these studies no matter what!!! How nice for you. Somewhere in there is a personality disorder.....

    October 20, 2012 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Enough studies already

    Next week there will be a "study" that says multivitamin causes cancer. I don't think it is safe to take anything, eat anything, drink anything well you get the picture. These days you just have to hope for the best.

    October 20, 2012 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Bob

    Forget the vitamins, to avoid cancer become a Monk. Seriously, watch the 60-minutes episode "Mt. Athos: A visit to the Holy Mountain" (or something like that). These Monk's live on a remote island, free of noise and pollution, raise their own food (organic veggies and livestock) and only sleep a few hours a day. I recall the episode stated practically no one dies of cancer. Fascinating show.

    October 22, 2012 at 04:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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  36. John

    Wow what useful information, would never exspected that taking multi-vits would reduce cancer in men!
    I found this site that may be of use to those who suffer from prostate cancer...http://painwhenurinating.org

    November 24, 2012 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. John

    Just a thought if you can reduce by 8% how many men in the world would avoid this irritating and embarrassing condition ...john!

    November 24, 2012 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Intracellular Vitamin C

    Hey it is good to know that multivitamins can reduce the risk of cancer in men but yet it not disclosed that which type of cancer vitamins can cure!!!! but its a good news for all men's!!!

    December 12, 2012 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Vitamin supplements

    Yes I am agree with the admin ..vitamins are very important to us . these are prevent us from many diseases.

    March 1, 2013 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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