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WCRF/AICR
Global Network

For Immediate Release: January 12, 2009
Contact: Mya Rae Nelson: 202-328-7744 x247

Negative Findings of Major Prostate Cancer Trial Support AICR Recommendation on Supplement Use

WASHINGTON, DC -- New data published in the January 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes that neither long-term supplementation with vitamins E and/or C reduced the risk of prostate (or other cancers) for over 14,000 American men. The results from this major, long-term cancer prevention study dashed hopes that antioxidant supplementation could prevent cancer in middle-aged and older men, as earlier evidence had suggested.

These findings echo the recommendations in AICR’s 2007 report, Food Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, which warns consumers not to rely on supplements to protect against cancer. According to AICR experts, taking a dietary supplement does not provide the same benefits as healthful eating. The disease-fighting properties ascribed to a diet that features antioxidant-rich plant foods cannot be packaged into a pill or powder.

Experts believe that it is the interaction of the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals in these foods that provides cancer protection. Adding just a handful of these compounds to a supplement will not garner the same effect as eating a varied plant-based diet.

While the emerging evidence suggests that antioxidant supplementation is not likely to ward off cancer, research consistently shows that a diet high in antioxidant-rich plant foods – nonstarchy vegetables and fruits in particular – probably offers protection from several types of cancer. Each individual fruit and vegetable offers its own profile of these protective substances, so AICR recommends including a wide variety in your diet each day.

One note of caution concerning the use of excessive antioxidant supplementation during treatment for cancer: Some studies show decreased effectiveness of chemo and radiation treatments when antioxidant supplements are taken simultaneously. Although others studies show increased effectiveness of these same therapies when antioxidants are used, there is lack of a clear-cut benefit to taking antioxidant supplements and a question of unintended harm.

Do note, however, that this concern is in regard to supplementation, not antioxidants received from food sources. Continuing to eat a healthy diet rich in plant foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains is recommended as much during cancer care as it is before and after treatment.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).

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