Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Multivitamins May Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence

Taking Multivitamins With Minerals May Lower Risk of Cancer Coming Back, Study Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 14, 2010 (San Antonio) -- Women with breast cancer who take multivitamins with minerals appear to face lower odds of having their cancer come back or dying.

"Multivitamins appears to especially benefit women undergoing radiation treatment," says researcher Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, of Columbia University's Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York City.

The study doesn't prove cause and effect. The association could be explained by other factors, such as the fact that women who eat right and exercise regularly are more likely to take vitamins, agree Greenlee and Edith Perez, MD, director of the breast cancer program at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.

Still, the findings set the stage for a trial called Pathways, which will enroll about 4,500 women with breast cancer and follow them over time to see how lifestyle factors, including diet and supplement use, influence breast cancer recurrence and death.

Women With Breast Cancer More Likely to Take Vitamins

About 60% of women with breast cancer take multivitamins, compared with 38% of healthy women, Greenlee tells WebMD. Yet no studies have examined the association between multivitamin use and breast cancer prognosis, according to Greenlee.

So she and colleagues at Kaiser Permanente Northern California studied 2,239 women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer between 1997 and 2000.

Forty-four percent took multivitamins with minerals and 13% took multivitamins without minerals at least three times a week for 12 months or more in the three years prior to diagnosis. After diagnosis, 65% and 19% reported using multivitamins with and without minerals, respectively.

By May 2010, 363 of the women relapsed and 372 died, 202 from breast cancer.

Taking Multivitamins With Minerals May Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Coming Back

Among the findings, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium:

  • Compared with women who never took multivitamins with minerals, women who took them anytime after diagnosis were 29% less likely to have a recurrence and 22% less likely to die from breast cancer.
  • Women who took multivitamins with minerals before diagnosis and at least three times a week for a year or more after diagnosis were 31% less likely to relapse and 27% less likely to die from breast cancer, compared with those who never took them.
  • When the results were stratified by treatment type, women who underwent radiation treatment benefited the most.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow