Taking supplements for cancer prevention may have ‘unexpected adverse effects’ warns body

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We need nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential fats and amino acids for our bodies to work properly, and many of these can be consumed through having a varied and balanced diet. Nonetheless, some people may need to take supplements if they have low levels of particular vitamins. Some people with cancer may be prescribed supplements if their cancer has inhibited them from absorbing nutrients from their food.

Nonetheless, the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCFI) says you should not use supplements for cancer prevention.

The site reads: “High-dose dietary supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention – aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.”

It notes that trials of high-dose supplements “have not consistently demonstrated the protective effects of micronutrients on cancer risk” and that “some trials have shown potential for unexpected adverse effects”.

The right food and drink is more likely to protect against cancer than consumption of dietary supplements, it concludes.

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Indeed, Cancer Research UK says: “There is no reliable evidence that any dietary supplement can help to prevent cancer.

“But there is evidence that a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can reduce your cancer risk.”

For example, a study looked at vitamin D supplements in preventing cancer and heart disease but the researchers found that vitamin D supplements did not lower the incidence of cancer or heart disease.

A Cochrane review published in 2018 looked at an essential mineral called selenium, and found that selenium did not reduce cancer risk.

The charity says: “Some of the trials even raised concern by reporting a higher incidence of high grade prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes in people who took selenium supplements.”

Nonetheless, the WCFI says there are a few instances where taking supplements is advisable for specific groups.

This includes vitamin B12 for people over the age of 50 who have difficulty absorbing naturally occurring vitamin B12, and iron and folic acid supplements for women who may become or are pregnant.

It also advises vitamin D supplements for infants and young children and for pregnant and breastfeeding women, “although specific recommendations for iron and vitamin D supplementation vary between countries”.

Indeed, the WCFI notes: “There is strong evidence from randomised controlled trials that high-dose beta-carotene supplements may increase the risk of lung cancer in some people.

“There is no strong evidence that dietary supplements, apart from calcium for colorectal cancer, can reduce cancer risk.”

If you have cancer, Cancer Research recommends that you check with your specialist before you take any supplements to make sure they won’t interfere with any cancer treatment you are having.

“Some vitamins or minerals could interfere with how well cancer drugs work. Antioxidant supplements such as co enzyme Q10, selenium and the vitamins A, C and E can help to prevent cell damage. So some doctors think this might stop chemotherapy working well,” the charity says.

There are, however, some other ways in which you may be able to prevent your risk of cancer. It is also important to be aware of potential signs and changes in your body, so that you can get diagnosed at an early stage, if you do find that you have cancer.

The Mayo Clinic says that you should “take charge” by making changes such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular screenings.

It warns against smoking, as “using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer” and also says “maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer”.

You should also protect yourself from the sun, and eat a healthy and balanced diet.

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