October 2013

Multivitamins May Reduce Risk of Death from Breast Cancer

Older women with breast cancer who take multivitamins may have a lower risk of mortality from the disease than those who do not take multivitamins, according to a new study.

In breast cancer, some cells begin growing abnormally. The cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells and may spread through the breast tissue to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body (metastasize). The most common type of breast cancer begins in the milk-producing ducts, but cancer may also occur in the lobules or in other breast tissue. There are many different varieties of breast cancer. Some cancer cells are fast growing while others are slow. Some cancer cells are stimulated by the estrogen in the body while others result from an out-of-control oncogene (cancer gene). Treatment is based on the special characteristics of the breast cancer.

In a recent study, researchers evaluated data on 7,728 women who were 50-79 years-old and diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from the women's health initiative. Data on multivitamin use was assessed at the start of the study and during the clinic visit closest to the time when breast cancer was diagnosed. Multivitamin data was collected from supplement bottles brought by participants to the clinic. Each woman was followed for an average of 7.1 years after breast cancer was diagnosed. At the beginning of the study, 37.8 percent of the women reported that that used multivitamins.

After the average 7.1 years of follow-up, 518 breast cancer-related deaths were reported. Through data analysis, the researchers found that women who used multivitamins had a 30 percent reduced risk of dying from the disease. The authors noted that this association remained after adjusting the data for multiple variables. Postmenopausal women who used multivitamins also had reduced risk of death from the disease when compared to those who did not use vitamins.

The authors concluded that multivitamins may play a role in reducing the risk of death from breast cancer in older women; however, further research is necessary to better understand these findings.

For more information about integrative therapies for breast cancer, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative EffectivenessDatabase.

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  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Wassertheil-Smoller S, McGinn AP, Budrys N, Chlebowski R, et al. Multivitamin and mineral use and breast cancer mortality in older women with invasive breast cancer in the women's health initiative. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 Oct;141(3):495-505. 

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