Do multivitamins increase the risk of breast cancer?

Experts call for more research as a new study suggests that taking multivitamin pills can increase the risk of breast cancer by 20%...

Women who take a daily multivitamin pill to ward off illness may actually be increasing their risk of breast cancer, according to a study.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found middle-aged and older women who regularly took supplements were almost 20% more likely to develop a tumour.

They took account of whether the women smoked, took much exercise, or had a family history of the disease – all strong risk factors – but they still found a significant link with multivitamin use.

However, they admitted the findings did not prove vitamin pills were to blame for an increase in cancer cases, as it is possible women may be compensating for an unhealthy lifestyle that puts them at increased risk.

Experts called for more in-depth studies to determine whether or not multivitamins are safe. They believe it is possible supplements may trigger tumour growth by increasing the density of breast tissue, a known risk factor for cancer.

It is estimated nearly a quarter of all UK adults take antioxidant supplements or multivitamins on a regular basis. The market for supplements is worth £500million a year.

Every year around 40,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer, the equivalent of more than 100 a day. A woman has a one in nine chance of developing the disease at some point in her life.

Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK‘s science information manager, said last night: ‘Like several other recent studies, this research adds to the evidence that multivitamins may not actually be beneficial for your health. Most can get all the nutrients they need from a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables.’

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