How important is a multivitamin in preventing cancer?

7:40 PM, Nov 13, 2012   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - On this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, how important is taking a vitamin supplement in preventing cancer?

It turns out, there's still a lot of debate around a lot of different studies.

"For a long time we've maintained that a multivitamin with folate is more likely than not to be beneficial," said Dr. Graham Colditz, Associate Director of prevention and control at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, and Niess-Gain Professor in the School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine.

It's middle-of-the-road advice about vitamin supplements.

That's because while a general multivitamin can make up for what might be lacking in your diet, some studies have linked taking high doses of certain vitamins to DNA damage instead of repair.

The evidence on multivitamins is different.

"Just the other week, results from physician health study showing suggested lower cancer burden with the multivitamin use," said Dr. Colditz.

So instead of focusing on the dose, Dr. Colditz says look for a daily vitamin that contains folic acid.

That's the synthetic form of a water-soluble B vitamin. It's called folate when it naturally occurs in your food.

"There's pretty strong evidence on the folate pathway for improving or preventing colon cancer, counteracting the adverse effect of alcohol which is a known carcinogen," said Dr. Colditz.

Folate's also been linked to lower rates of breast cancer. The jury is still out on how much vitamin d is optimal for health.

"We don't know that yet and the evidence we have is really from a pretty much just a standard multivitamin that's showing benefit now," said Dr. Colditz.


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