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22.07.2015


Supplements only likely to help cancer survivors on a healthy diet

Supplements may have a small effect on the survival chances of women who have undergone cancer treatment. They increase the mortality risk of cancer survivors who eat an unhealthy diet and decrease the risk slightly in women who eat a healthy diet, according to an article published by epidemiologists at the University of Minnesota in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Study
The researchers used data gathered for the Iowa Women Health Study. They monitored 2118 women who had been diagnosed as having cancer in the period 1986-2002. They tracked the women until 2004, when they were 73-88 years old.

The researchers wanted to know how the use of supplements after diagnosis affected the women's survival chances.

Results
For the group as a whole the effect was nil, as the figures below show [see All diets]. But when the researchers divided the women into two groups according to the quality of their diet, they saw that supplements could raise the survival chances of women a little. If the women ate a healthy diet.

The researchers used the World Cancer Research Fund criteria to assess the quality of the women's diet. The more soft drinks, alcohol and red or processed meat the women consumed, and the less fruit, vegetables and fibre, the worse the quality of their diet.


Supplements only likely to help cancer survivors on a healthy diet


Supplements only likely to help cancer survivors on a healthy diet


The data also showed that women who ate healthily couldn't go wild with their supplement consumption. The table below shows that iron supplements are not necessarily a good idea for this group of women.


Supplements only likely to help cancer survivors on a healthy diet


Nor was iron supplementation a good idea for women who ate a bad diet. But the real problem for this group is folic acid supplementation. Female cancer survivors who take extra folic acid double their mortality risk.


Supplements only likely to help cancer survivors on a healthy diet


Conclusion
"The use of most dietary supplements after cancer diagnosis was not associated with the risk of death in this study among older female cancer survivors", the researchers wrote. "However, using folic acids, multivitamins, or a greater number of dietary supplements appeared to be associated with higher risk of death only among survivors eating lower quality diets."

Source:
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 May;23(5):865-75.

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