A new study has found multivitamins modestly lowered the risk of cancer in healthy male doctors who took them for more than a decade.

This new study surprises experts because previous resources claimed individual vitamins do not help prevent chronic diseases and some even seemed to raise the risk of cancer.

According to the new study, multivitamins lowered the chance of developing cancer by 8 percent. However, cancer experts are stating this is less effective than a good diet, exercise and not smoking, each of which can lower cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent.

“It’s a very mild effect and personally I’m not sure it’s significant enough to recommend to anyone, although it is promising,” said Dr. Ernest Hawk, Vice President of Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and formerly of the National Cancer Institute. “At least this doesn’t suggest harm as some previous studies on single vitamins have.”

The study was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

About one-third of U.S. adults and as many as half of those over 50 take multivitamins. A fact sheet from the federal Office of Dietary Supplements states no government agency recommends their routine use “regardless of the quality of a person’s diet.”

Multivitamins made no difference in the risk of developing prostate cancer, which accounted for half of all cases. They lowered the risk of other cancers by 12 percent. There was also a trend toward fewer cancer-related deaths among multivitamin users.  The difference was so small it could have occurred by chance alone.

Cancer experts said the results need to be confirmed by another study before recommending multivitamins to the public.

Multivitamins may also have different results in women, younger men or people less healthy than those in this study.

Doctors suggest the following tips:

-Multivitamins are dietary supplements, which do not get the strict testing required of prescription medicines.

-Ask your doctor before taking any multivitamin. Vitamin K can interfere with common heart medicines and blood thinners. Vitamins C and E can lower the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy. Some vitamins also effect bleeding and response to anesthesia on those having surgery.

-Current and former smokers should avoid multivitamins with lots of beta-carotene or vitamin A. Two previous studies have tied them to increase risk of lung cancer.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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