Cancer is one of the largest causes of death in the United States today. What things are we consuming that could be causing cancer? Some experts say it could be supplements, which countless Americans consume on a daily basis.

CBS news reports on supplements. New information shows that supplements have compounds that are linked to causing cancer. 

Many experts contend that supplements are connected to an increased risk of cancer. Numerous companies also boast that their supplements supposedly prevent cancer but data shows that they actually do the opposite.

How was the latest study conducted?

Dr. Byers, director for cancer prevention and control at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, led a meta-analysis of twenty years worth of research. There were twelve trials that included more than 300,000 people. The research showed that numerous supplements actually made a person much more likely to develop different forms of cancer.

Dr. Byers started his study on the connection between supplements and cancer risk two decades ago.

“He and many other researchers observed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables cut their risk for cancer. Byers and his colleagues wondered if taking supplements that provide the same vitamins and minerals as fruits and vegetables could offer similar protection,” according to CBS news.

However Dr. Byers’ findings showed the opposite of what was hypothesized. The results displayed that rather than warding off cancer, taking lots of supplements may increase a person's risk level. This research was shown at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Philadelphia this past week.

Which vitamins were associated with which types of cancers?

Dr. Byers found that consumers who took large doses of beta carotene supplements had a heightened risk for lung cancer. Selenium supplements were linked with skin cancer. Men who took vitamin E had an increased threat for prostate cancer. Folic acid, a B vitamin, taken in excess could lead to an elevated threat for colon cancer.

Dr. Byers says it is still unclear why supplements could have this negative effect, but more research will be done to figure this out. Other studies Dr. Byers reviewed showed that many other supplements had no apparent affect on cancer threat; it did not increase or decrease it. CBS reports,

“Recent research has shown that for the most part, vitamin supplements have little impact on a person's long-term health. Some research has even gone as far as to say that they are a waste of money.”

Other studies have also been conducted on supplements, an analysis of 24 studies and two trials published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2013 looked at the role of vitamin supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases. That study did not find much of a correlation between supplements and cancer. But Dr. Byers said that consumers should be more careful before taking so many supplements.

Should people take vitamins at all then?

CBS explains, “A person who has a known deficiency of a certain vitamin or mineral, either due to diet or health condition that prevents proper absorption, can take a supplement, preferably a multivitamin that provides levels in line with recommended daily allowances. But in every case, Byers cautions consumers to acknowledge that there may be harm in excess.”

Gerry Oginski
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