Experts adjust vitamin advice
Nutritionists take another look at the ability of supplements to prevent cancer
Nutritionists are re-examining the advice they're giving to people about supplements, says a Hawaii cancer, diet and nutrition researcher.
There is no good evidence that very high doses of vitamins and minerals prevent cancer, says Suzanne Murphy, "and we're increasingly seeing studies that say they might be harmful."
The Cancer Research Center of Hawaii researcher will be among experts presenting information on cancer and cancer-related issues at the second annual Cancer Research Information Day from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Medical Education Building Auditorium of the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako. It's free and open to the public.
Murphy -- who will discuss "Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Can They Prevent Cancer?" -- said her message is that "we need to be careful about taking formulations or products with very high levels of some nutrients, particularly antioxidants."
"We used to think the evidence supported that. It just turned out not to be true so far," she said in an interview.
The American Medical Association journal JAMA recently reported that high doses of antioxidant supplements could be harmful. Vitamin advocates challenged the analysis, saying it excluded large studies from China and Italy showing antioxidant supplements lowered mortality risk.
Consumers should look at the label, she said. "Some of the things called daily vitamins can be higher than what we think is desirable."
The supplements fact label has a column called "percent of daily value," she pointed out. "So what you're looking for is something about 100 percent of the daily value. We think that's all people need."
What's best is for people to eat a healthy diet so they shouldn't need supplementary vitamins, she said.
But there may be some exceptions, she said, such as people who are sick, don't have access to nutritious food or for some reason aren't eating well.
"Even people who are eating well sometimes may need supplements. It has to do with not absorbing things as well when we get older," she said.
The center initiated the Cancer Research Information Day last year to increase awareness of cancer and related issues in the community.
Dr. Carl Wilhelm-Vogel, center director, will discuss plans for a new cancer research facility next to the medical school in Kakaako in his talk, "The Dawn of a New Era for Cancer Care in Hawaii."
Other topics will include colorectal cancer, whether a tomato-rich diet has a role in preventing prostate cancer, asbestos and genetics in mesothelioma, whether a vaccine can control incidence of cervical cancer, challenges of surviving cancer, clinical trials, searching for credible cancer information, and lung cancer and prostate cancer management.
The event is supported by the Friends of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii with the Hawaii Medical Service Association, AstraZeneca Oncology and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.