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Multivitamins and Vitamin E Supplements Associated With A Fifty Percent Reduction In Risk Of Colon Cancer According To Latest Cancer Study

James Meschino DC, MS, ROPH

Colo-rectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in North America and epidemiological and other evidence suggests that 70-90% of colo-rectal cancer is caused by nutrition and other lifestyle factors.  A number of vitamins and minerals are known to exert anti-tumor influences upon the epithelial cell of the large bowel, and experimental and animal studies have revealed their potential to prevent, inhibit, and reverse cancerous changes within the epithelial cells of the large bowel.  In particular, strong evidence suggests that Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, folic acid, selenium and calcium, all produce various biological effects that help to prevent the development of colo-rectal cancer.  Some of these biological mechanisms include antioxidant activity (Vitamins C, E, selenium), inhibiting the formation of nitrosamines in the intestinal tract (Vitamin C), slowing the rate of epithelial cell division (calcium and Vitamin D), direct anti-tumor effects (selenium), enhancing cellular differentiation (Vitamin E, Vitamin D), reducing the concentrations of fecal mutagens (Vitamin E, Vitamin C), preventing DNA hypomethylation (folic acid and Vitamin B12), and apoptosis – the selective induction of programmed cell death among malignant cells (Vitamin E).  Based upon the volume of literature to support the contention that certain vitamin and minerals can prevent colo-rectal cancer, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle conducted a case-control study involving 251 men and 193 women diagnosed with colon cancer in 1985-1989 and 233 male and 194 female control subjects from the general population.

From their data, they determined that the daily use of multivitamins for 10 years was associated with a 50% reduction in risk of developing colon cancer among men and women (age-adjusted odds ration 0:49, 95% CI 0:35-0:69, as compared to no use of multivitamins).  There was also strong evidence for the use of Vitamin E supplementation (average daily dosage of 200 IU) for over 10 years.  Vitamin E supplement users demonstrated a 57% reduction in risk of colon cancer compared to nonusers of Vitamin E supplements (odds ratio 0:43, 95% CI 0: 26-0:71).  A clear dose-dependent response trend was observed for Vitamin E.  For Vitamin D, almost all users derived their supplemental Vitamin D from a multivitamin, which makes it difficult to determine its independent influence on preventing colon cancer.  Research studies suggest, however, that Vitamin D is likely one of the more significant micronutrients linked to the prevention of colon cancer.

The researchers conclude that the findings of this study indicate that the use of supplements, especially multivitamins (with minerals) and Vitamin E supplements, are associated with reduced colon cancer risk.


White E, Shannon JS, Patterson RE. Relationship between vitamin and calcium supplement use and colon cancer.  Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Oct1997;6(10):769-774

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