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October 2014 Issue
Last Updated Thursday, October 30 2014
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Supplement Use Among Cancer Survivors Widespread



Published March 1, 2008
Use of vitamin and mineral supplements among cancer survivors is widespread, despite inconclusive evidence that such use is beneficial, according to a comprehensive review of scientific literature published last month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In reviewing 32 studies conducted between 1999 and 2006, the researchers found that many of the nation’s 10 million adult cancer survivors use nutritional supplements. They found 64-81% of cancer survivors overall reported using vitamins or minerals (excluding multivitamins), while in the general population only 50% of adults reported taking dietary supplements. Survivors of breast cancer reported the highest use (75-87%), whereas prostate-cancer survivors reported the least (26-35%). Factors associated with the highest level of supplement use overall included a higher level of education and being female. The researchers also found that many people initiate the use of vitamins and supplements after cancer diagnosis; between 14% and 32% start taking them after learning they have cancer. Until research clarifies the effects of vitamin use in cancer survivors, the authors urge healthcare professionals to communicate openly with their patients about supplement use. “A simple explanation that medical studies show supplement use may not always be beneficial may help cancer survivors make well-informed decisions,” the authors wrote.


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