University of Tromsø: Supplements may help cancer survival

A new study from Norway suggests that taking supplements may drastically reduce risk of death from lung cancer and possibly others as well.

The study shows that people with lung cancer who used cod liver oil were 44 percent less likely to die from the disease while patients who used other supplements were 30 percent less likely to die from the disease compared to those who did not take supplements.

“This study has shown that in lung cancer patients taking dietary supplements before diagnosis was associated with better survival. Whether this is due to beneficial effects of supplements, or differences between supplement users and non-users cannot be determined,” Guri Skeie from the University of Tromsø and colleagues reported in the International Journal of Cancer.

The study also suggests that use of supplements may benefit patients with other cancers. Use of cod liver oil and other supplements was found associated with improved survival rates for patients with other solid cancers including breast and colorectal cancer. The finding was apparently in contradiction with some clinical trials which found use of supplements was not linked to reduced risk of lung cancer or even linked to increased risk of the disease. The researchers said the trials tended to use pharmacological doses of specific nutrients, which could make the difference.

For the study, Skeie and colleagues surveyed 68,000 people participating in the Norwegian Women and Cancer Study for their use of supplements including cod liver oil, multivitamins and minerals. Cancer cases were identified. They found consumption of cod liver oil for a year prior to diagnosis was associated with a 23 percent reduction in the risk of death in patients with solid cancers. For patients with lung cancer, the reduction was 44 percent. They also found that use of other dietary supplements daily or occasionally was correlated respectively with 30 and 45 percent reduction in the risk of death from lung cancer.

Lung cancer is expected in 219,000 men and women in the United States and will kill 159,000 people in 2009, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.


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