Prevention Series 8 of 8 | Supplements Are Not the Answer to Cancer Prevention

by Natalie on August 4, 2011

Today’s post is the final installment in my prevention series. If you are new, use the links below to catch all previous articles. Each article in the series is of equal importance and should not be missed.

The recommendations explored in this series are from the AICR/WCRF 2nd expert report on cancer prevention.

The topic of discussion today is supplements. Supplements are nutrients in an isolated form such as vitamins and minerals. They are, in effect, meant to “supplement” your diet. Most people take supplements because they are worried they are not receiving enough of a specific nutrient from their diet.

The AICR cautions against relying on supplements for cancer prevention. Their specific cancer prevention guideline is stated as follows, “don’t use supplements to protect against cancer”. They emphasize that a healthy diet is more important to lower cancer risk than supplements.

Researchers from the second expert report on cancer prevention found mixed evidence regarding supplements and cancer prevention. Some studies showed that high-dose nutrient supplements had a protective effect while others showed they may cause cancer. Therefore, it is not wise to take high dose nutrient supplements without the advice of a qualified health care professional.

In general, most healthy people can obtain all the necessary nutrients from their diet. However, there are some people in which supplements may be necessary. These include:

  • Women who may become or who already are pregnant, and women who are breastfeeding. These women may require additional folic acid, iron, and vitamin D.
  • People at risk for vitamin D deficiency: pregnant or breastfeeding women, people who are dark skinned, those who live in northern altitudes, the elderly, infants with 100% of their nutrition coming from breastmilk, and children and adolescents with poor intakes of vitamin D containing foods.
  • Those with or at risk for osteoporosis may require additional calcium and vitamin D.
  • People over age 50 and those who consume a vegan diet may require a B12 supplement.
  • People with absorptive issues resulting from gastrointestinal resections or disorders.

If you think you fall into one of these categories, it is best to talk with your doctor to determine your need for supplements.

The Bottom Line

For most people, a healthy diet is the best way consume important cancer fighting nutrients. A healthy diet is plant-based, which includes many deeply colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Cover all your bases by choosing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It is best to consult with a qualified health care professional before beginning any supplement program.

I had so much fun highlighting this important information in a series. I hope you enjoyed it too and learned a lot! Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post in which I will provide a very short and concise summary of all the recommendations.


Photo by: Colin Dunn

Marilyn August 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Great series. Being informed is our best tool to stay healthy! Thanks Natalie!

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