Supplement Use Among Cancer Survivors in the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Study Cohort

In studying 4,399 male cancer survivors and 6,458 female cancer survivors compared with 31,042 male cancer-free controls and 33,184 female cancer-free controls who were between 50 and 75 years of age who participated in the Vitamins and Lifestyle study, subjects were evaluated by a 24-page questionnaire. Cancer survivors used similar numbers of supplements as cancer-free controls. After adjusting for gender, age, education and race/ethnicity, the odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the strongest positive associations for cancer survivors and their use of a particular supplement were: cranberry pills for bladder cancer, 3.44; zinc for ovarian cancer, 2.19; soy for prostate cancer, 1.99; melatonin for cervical cancer, 1.86; and vitamin D for thyroid cancer, 1.66. Women used more supplements than men, with 40% of men and 56% of women reporting taking 2 or more vitamins and minerals in high dosages, and approximately 16% of men and 20% of women reporting taking herbal or speciality supplements at high dosages. This study showed that this population of cancer survivors was not necessarily taking more supplements overall than cancer-free controls, but they were choosing to take different supplements than those without cancer. It is likely that these cancer survivors were taking these supplements for specific physiologic purposes and health benefits.