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Dietary supplement use by individuals living with and beyond cancer

University College London, December 20, 2021


New research indicates that many individuals living with and beyond cancer use dietary supplements, often with the belief that the products will reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings reveal a need for health care professionals to provide advice and clarity to patients about the appropriate use of dietary supplements.

To explore factors associated with dietary supplement use in cancer survivors, Rana Conway, PhD, RNutr, of University College London (UCL), and her colleagues studied 1,049 adults who had been diagnosed with breast, prostate, or colorectal cancer in the United Kingdom.

Among the major findings:

  • 40% of participants took dietary supplements.

  • 19% of participants believed that dietary supplements could reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

  • Women, participants meeting five-a-day fruit and vegetable recommendations, and those believing that dietary supplements were important for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence were more likely to use dietary supplements.

  • Participants with obesity were less likely to use dietary supplements.

  • Fish oils were the most commonly used dietary supplements, taken by 13% of participants.

  • Calcium with or without vitamin D were the supplements most commonly used by individuals with breast cancer, taken by 15%.