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Taking an Antioxidant Vitamin May Reduce Your Cancer Risk

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) recently released a study attempting to address a question that years of previous research has had difficulty answering: what effect do antioxidant vitamin supplements have on cancer mortality and mortality risk in general?

The study included 23,943 people who were cancer and heart disease free at the beginning of the study. After 11 years, the scientists had recorded 1,101 deaths; 513 of which were the result of cancer and 264 of which were related to cardiovascular conditions.

The results—which were published in the European Journal of Nutrition on July 21, 2011—were varied but seemed to indicate that antioxidant supplements help reduce the risk of cancer mortality and all-cause mortality.

Specifically, the scientists found a 48% reduced risk of cancer mortality and a 42% reduced risk of all-cause mortality over 11 years in people who were taking antioxidant vitamin supplements at the start of the study.

However, they also found an increased risk of death for people who started taking antioxidant vitamin supplements after the start of the study. The scientists posit that this is because people tend to start taking vitamins and paying better attention to their health in general after they become sick, a phenomenon known as the “sick user effect.”

Ultimately the researchers concluded that more research needs to be conducted; particularly more carefully controlled clinical trials. Until that point, they said no definitive statements can be made about the effect of antioxidant multivitamins on mortality.

Antioxidants have also been linked to improved cardiovascular health, eye health, brain health, lower cholesterol, and prostate health.

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