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Multivitamins May Help Prevent Cancer

Older Men Who Took Vitamins Had Modest Reduction in Cancer, but Experts Can't Say if Findings Apply to Others
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 17, 2012 (Anaheim, Calif.) -- Taking a daily multivitamin for years may lower the risk of cancer, according to new research.

The study followed nearly 15,000 middle-aged and older men for about 11 years. It is not yet clear if the findings would apply to women or younger men.

"The main findings were a reduction in total cancers of 8%,'' says researcher J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

''Our main message is that the main reason to take a multivitamin is to prevent nutritional deficiency,'' Gaziano said at a news briefing today at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting held here.

"It appears there is a modest benefit for cancer reduction in men over 50," he said.

The findings are also published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Vitamins and Cancer Risk: Details

The men were enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study (PHS) II. It studied the long-term effects of taking a multivitamin on the prevention of chronic disease, including cancer.

In the study, about half of the 15,000 men took a daily multivitamin, Centrum Silver. The other half took placebo. When they started the study, they were 50 or older.

At the start, 1,312 men had a history of cancer, but none had active cancer.

The researchers tracked the men to see who developed cancers, except non-melanoma skin cancers.

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