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Supplements, Breast Cancer Concerns

Think multivitamins protect you against diseases like breast cancer? You may want to think again. There are many factors impacting breast cancer risk, but among them is breast density. Women with very dense breasts can face as much as a six-fold increase in breast cancer risk — not to mention the fact that denser tissue makes detection more difficult.
Now, startling new research links multivitamin use with increased breast density among premenopausal women. About 22% of the nearly 1,600 women in a Canadian study took multivitamin and multimineral supplements.Among premenopausal women, pill poppers had 13% more dense breast tissue compared to those who avoided supplements, translating into a 30-50% increased risk of breast cancer.By contrast, taking tamoxifen — an estrogen-mitigating medication — reduced breast density by 5%. The findings are yet more evidence of the lack of benefit — and even possible health risk — of supplement use.
Both the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health have reviewed the data on multivitamins and have found insufficient evidence of benefits — including no protection against heart disease. Other research has linked particular supplements with increased disease risk — for type 2 diabetes (selenium), heart attacks (calcium), lung (beta-carotene) and prostate cancer (zinc). In contrast to supplements, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables plus plenty of exercise provides far firmer insurance against breast cancer. Include cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, apples,cranberries and tomatoes in your breast cancer prevention diet.

Published June 1, 2009

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