We've pointed out many times that the scientific evidence for the benefits of taking multivitamins is slim and that a healthy diet should get you the same benefits. That said, we were interested to note one recent study which does suggest that taking a daily multivitamin had a modest but measurable correlation with lower cancer rates.
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The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined 14,641 physicians who took part in a multivitamin trial between beginning in 1997. As the release announcing the study explains:
During multivitamin treatment, there were 2,669 confirmed cases of cancer, including 1,373 cases of prostate cancer and 210 cases of colorectal cancer, with some men experiencing multiple events. A total of 2,757 (18.8 percent) men died during follow-up, including 859 (5.9 percent) due to cancer. Analysis of the data indicated that men taking a multivitamin had a modest 8 percent reduction in total cancer incidence.
As with most scientific research, this doesn't automatically equate to "taking a multivitamin will reduce your risk of cancer". It isn't clear if a particular combination of vitamins contributed to the effect, whether getting those vitamins through food would bring the same benefits, or what the impact would be on female patients. More research is needed, but the result at least suggests that research would have some justification.