Vitamin studies have up until recently had mixed results. For example, a study of Vitamin A showed that it actually increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers who took fairly large quantities. Other studies of antioxidant vitamins have failed to show any benefit in terms of cancer prevention. Still, the vitamin industry is huge and more than willing to shell out whatever it takes to fund studies that hopefully might show some benefit.

Well, the vitamin industry finally struck gold-or at first glance-so it seems. A study involving 15,000 older male physicians ,(no, I did not take part) who were followed for 10 year found an 8% reduction in risk for cancer in those who took daily vitamins compared with nonusers. The study was double blinded (which means that neither the researchers nor the participants knew whether the pills were vitamins or placebos). Wow- you say- I’m going to the supermarket and put down some serious money to buy vitamins.

The results however are modest at best. In 10 years 100 older males might suffer say 10 new cases of cancer, just based on chance alone. If you were to prevent 8% of these cancers, then less than one new cancer would be prevented by 100 older guys chowing down a daily vitamin for 10 years. Not very impressive, unless of course you happen to be that one person.

Another problem with the study is that it was partially sponsored by the very companies that want you to buy their product. Granted, these sponsors had no input as to the study design, choice of researchers or interpretation of results. Still, overall about 80% of industry sponsored studies churn out positive results for the drug studied, which simply stated shows that researchers unknowingly or not have a bias to give the heads up to companies sponsoring their research.

Before you buy those vitamins, first consider other more effective cancer prevention strategies. Eat a diet high in vegetables and fruit; avoid processed food; exercise regularly; keep a healthy weight; get plenty of sleep and see your doctor regularly. These simple measures will without a doubt lower your risk of cancer much more than just taking a daily vitamin pill. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take vitamins, just realize that there are other, healthier ways to prevent cancer.