Multivitamins and Cancer Risk: Reading Between the Lines





 

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that a daily multivitamin supplement reduces cancer risk….


 

 

MULTIVITAMINS AND CANCER RISK: READING BETWEEN THE LINES

As I discuss in my book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, recent high-level studies of common vitamins, including antioxidant vitamins, has dimmed the prior enthusiasm that these micronutrients can reduce the risk of cancer, or cardiovascular disease, in otherwise healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet.  Moreover, recent prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical studies have actually suggested that taking supplements of Vitamin E and Vitamin A (including beta-carotene) may actually be harmful to our health, while recent similar studies of Vitamin C supplements have shown neither apparent benefit nor harm.

Despite the almost uniformly discouraging recent research findings regarding most nutritional supplements and their alleged ability to decrease our risk of cancer and other serious illnesses, many people (as well as nutritional supplement manufacturers…) continue to hold out hope that popping a daily vitamin pill, or other nutritional supplement, will protect them from cancer and other dreaded diseases.  (Meanwhile, most people still tend to ignore the evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle and diet practices that I describe in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, and which have been linked, by hundreds of reputable clinical research studies, with a 40 to 60 percent reduction in cancer risk.)  So, it is not surprising to see the extensive and favorable media coverage that is being given to a newly published clinical study looking at the potential impact of daily multivitamin supplements and cancer risk, and which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Physicians’ Health Study II is a large, ongoing, prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 14,641 male physicians in the United States.  All of these men were at least 50 years of age when they entered into this public health study (the average age of all study participants when they entered into this study was 64 years of age).  This study has observed health outcomes in this very large group of male physicians for an average of 11 years now, and the study’s authors have now reported on the impact of taking a daily commercial multivitamin supplement upon cancer risk and cancer-associated death rates.

To summarize the findings of this very large public health study, the male physicians in this study were secretly randomized to receive either Centrum Silver (a commercial multivitamin and mineral supplement) or a placebo (sugar) pill.  At the time of their entry into this study, 1,312 of these male volunteers were noted to have a prior personal history of cancer.  Following more than 11 years of observation, 2,669 of these physician volunteers were subsequently confirmed to have developed cancer, including 1,373 cases of prostate cancer and 210 cases of colorectal cancer.  When compared with the men who were randomly (and secretly) assigned to the placebo group, the men who were assigned to the multivitamin supplement group experienced an observed, and modest (8 percent), but still significant, reduction in the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

While this 8 percent reduction in overall cancer risk has been widely trumpeted by other media sites, it is important to note several significant caveats before you run out to the drugstore and buy a case of Centrum Silver.  When one looks at the statistical analysis of the data that resulted in the claimed 8 percent reduction in cancer risk, one immediately notices that the so-called “confidence interval” for this claim extends to 0.998, which is right up against the limit of 1.0 that would render these findings statistically insignificant.  Therefore, the single, sole positive finding in this study of a modest decrease in overall cancer incidence is, itself, at the very borderline of what most statisticians would consider to be a statistically significant finding.

In addition to the single modest (and only barely statistically significant) positive finding of this study, as I have noted above, there was no significant correlation between multivitamin use and the risk of developing prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or, indeed, any other individual type of cancer.  The absence of any identifiable decrease in the risk of any individual type of cancer in this study, likewise, further calls into question the validity of this study’s single, and statistically borderline, positive finding of an 8 percent reduction in overall cancer incidence among the group of men who were randomized to receive a daily multivitamin tablet.  Moreover, this study also failed to reveal any detectable reduction in the cancer-associated death rate among the men who received a daily multivitamin tablet.

The rather breathlessly favorable media reaction to this study’s conclusions vividly illustrates how the superficial reporting of seemingly favorable clinical research findings can mislead the public into accepting overblown or invalid conclusions, such as those made by the authors of this particular research study.  As I discuss in A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, most of the published research in the area of cancer prevention research is of relatively low quality in terms of the methods used to conduct such research.  Moreover, as this particular prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study shows, even clinical studies that actually utilize higher level methodologies still require both a careful and critical analysis of their findings and claims, and the conclusions of such studies should not be simply accepted at face value.  While this multivitamin study makes the very simple and straightforward claim that taking a commercial multivitamin and mineral supplement “significantly” reduces the incidence of cancer (at least among middle-aged and elderly male physicians), even a cursory evaluation of this study’s data and conclusions confirms that there is likely to be little or no overall health benefit, in terms of cancer risk and cancer-related death reduction, associated with taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement in otherwise healthy and well-nourished adults.  As the old saying goes, if something seems too good to true, it probably isn’t…..


A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle now!

 

Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 




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Drug and Medical Device Company Advertising to Physicians

Welcome to Weekly Health Update


“A critical weekly review of important new research findings for health-conscious readers”



 

DRUG AND MEDICAL DEVICE COMPANY ADVERTISING TO PHYSICIANS

I have written before about the interactions between physicians, on the one hand, and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, on the other hand, and how these relationships can adversely impact upon patient care (Generic vs. Brand Name DrugsDrug Company Marketing & Physician Bias).  Not surprisingly, there are several previously published research studies that have confirmed that the prescribing habits of physicians can be significantly affected by the marketing activities of pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies.  (Estimates of pharmaceutical marketing expenditures in the United States, alone, range from about $30 billion to year up to about $57 billion per year, indicating that pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are well aware of the effectiveness of their marketing and promotional campaigns that directly target both physicians and patients.)

In the current issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery is a rather disturbing clinical research study that further calls into question some of the advertising strategies directed at physicians by drug and medical device manufacturers.

In this study, five academic Ear, Nose and Throat surgeons (Otolaryngologists) reviewed 50 specific claims that were made for medical products within 23 individual advertisements.  All of these advertisements were displayed in prominent peer-reviewed otolaryngology professional journals.  Each of these five physician-reviewers had significant experience as editorial reviewers, and several of these physicians had also previously undergone intensive training in research methodology and scientific methods.

Among the 50 separate claims made within these 23 advertisements, only 14 of these claims (28 percent of the total claims) were determined to be based on solid scientific evidence.  While there was not uniform agreement in every case on the part of all five physician-reviewers, when any three of these five academic physicians were in agreement regarding their findings, only five of the 50 claims (10 percent of the total) were deemed to be accurate and correct!  At the same time, only 3 of the 50 claims (6 percent of the total) were considered to be well supported by clinical research data! 

This interesting study points out several very important considerations.  First of all, and as I have already noted, drug and medical device manufacturers don’t spent tens of billions of their hard-earned dollars on marketing every year as a casual undertaking.  They invest this tremendous sum of money because they know, without a doubt, that these marketing dollars influence physicians to prescribe their products.  Secondly, in many cases, and as confirmed by this particular research study, the claims that pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers make, to both physicians and patients, are very often based on very flimsy scientific or clinical evidence (or, in many cases, no real evidence at all).  Therefore, significant patient care decisions are routinely made based solely upon the impact of advertisements (and based upon physician interactions with sales representatives) that provide no compelling scientific or clinical evidence to support the use of one particular medication or medical device over another.  At a time when we can no longer afford the health care system that we have now, and at a critical time when our nation is saddled with a debt burden that we also can no longer afford to sustain, the findings of this study, and others like it, should compel both physicians and the appropriate regulatory agencies to take a closer look at the rules that govern pharmaceutical and medical device advertising to both physicians and patients.



For a comprehensive guide to living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.  For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


For a different perspective on Dr. Wascher, please click on the following YouTube link:

Texas Blues Jam


I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people, from around the world, who visit this premier global health information website every month. (More than 1.2 million health-conscious people visited Weekly Health Update in 2010!) As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.





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