Dietary Supplements Can Increase Cancer Risk

In new analysis of previous research studies, researchers have found that taking dietary supplements, especially if you are taking high doses, can lead to an increased cancer risk. The analysis involved looking into over 20 years of various studies relating to people’s risk of getting cancer and taking supplements.

dietary supplementThe author of the analysis, Dr. Tim Byers, works at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Dr. Byers noted that in the groups where the people were taking supplements, cancer was seen at higher rates than groups who were not taking supplements. The increased number of cancer cases were especially seen in the people who took dietary supplements such as beta carotene, vitamin E and folic acid. In fact, there was so many different instances where cancer increased in the groups that Dr. Byers feels that supplements need to be seen as a public health issue and a clinical health issue. Dr. Byers wants the public and consumers of these products to know that you are not doing yourself any good by taking them, and that if you are taking more than what it says or more than the recommended daily dose, you really could be significantly harming your body.

In one study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers actually found that women who were taking high doses of folic-acid supplements ended up with a 19 percent increase in breast cancer risk. The women who were taking the supplements were compared with a group of women who were not taking supplements, which is a significant increase for just one type of supplement. Women who had the highest levels of folate in their blood ended up having a 32 percent increase in breast cancer risk, opposed to the women who had the lowest levels of this water-soluble folic acid in their blood.

There was another study that used 35,000 men, which was published in the journal JAMA in 2011, and this study also showed an increase in cancer risk. The study found that men who took high-doses of vitamin E supplements had a 17 percent increase in overall cancer risk, which was over a 7 to 12 year period of time. Even a study published in 1994 from the New England Journal of Medicine showed the same thing, that taking supplements actually increases the risk of cancer. In the 1994 study, men who smoked and took beta-carotene supplements had an 18 percent higher risk of getting lung cancer over a 5 to 8 year period. That study looked at only men who smoked, with the only difference being one group took the beta-carotene supplements and the other group did not take supplements. The article from back then also linked the beta-carotene supplements to the increase in cancer risk, especially for smokers.

The researchers who were analyzing all of these studies presented it at the American Association for Cancer Research on April 20. What is scary about this is that so many people within the United States and the world, take supplements because they believe supplements will help reduce their risk of getting cancer. There are people who take several different supplements thinking that this will boost the immune system and keep their cells and body healthy, however these findings suggest that people are actually harming themselves without knowing it.

It is not known if any other researchers have looked at these previous studies to analyze the findings, however these findings from the studies themselves should be looked into further. A lot of dietary supplements are not approved or endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration, which is why so many different supplements can claim a variety of health benefits. If these supplements are actually causing cancer and causing other negative health consequences, then there likely will be a way that the Food and Drug Administration could become involved in the process, or at least limit the types of claims that these companies could put on the bottles. It is also not known if anyone has sued these dietary supplement companies claiming they have caused them to get cancer, but this analysis could actually make that case in court.

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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.