Acupuncture Continuing Education

Vitamins Linked to Breast Cancer

Multivitamin use is linked to an increased rate of breast cancer according to newly released information from the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology in Stockholm Sweden. A statistically significant increase in breast cancer was discovered in this multiyear study with a sample size of 35,329 participants. This adds to increasing concern over the safe use of vitamins. Prior, the National Cancer Institute (a division of the U.S. National Institute’s of Health) also concluded that beta-carotene supplements increase the risk of lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that “contrary to earlier expectations, not only do beta-carotene supplements not prevent lung cancer in people at high risk for the disease, they appear to increase rates of the disease, particularly among smokers.” In another study, Dr. Slatore, MD of the University of Washington in Seattle notes that “increased intake of supplemental vitamin E was associated with a slightly increased risk of lung cancer." This conclusion was reached from a study with a sample size of 77,000 participants and was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. On the other hand, many studies link healthy levels of vitamin D to significantly lowering the risk for breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer.

Several factors are involved in healthy and safe vitamin supplementation. Concentration levels vary. Some vitamins offer extremely high dosages of particular nutrients with a ‘more is better’ approach. However, an excess of nutrients may be as dangerous as a deficiency. For example, iron supplements are helpful for those suffering from iron deficiency anemia but are toxic and perhaps deadly to those with a rare disorder known as hemochromatosis. Therefore, appropriate supplementation is dependent on the need for a vitamin. If someone already has healthy levels of a vitamin, adding more can be detrimental.

Manufacturing quality varies amongst vitamin producers. The FDA’s GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) category allows companies to add substances, including newly developed chemicals, into vitamins without the FDA’s approval or knowledge. Companies are not required to identify substances added to vitamins such that neither the consumer nor the FDA knows what ingredients are contained within vitamin supplements. Companies may add engineered nanomaterials (materials manipulated at the molecular level) and other substances into vitamins without notifying the FDA. Companies may make their own determination of whether or not a vitamin is GRAS and companies are not required to tell the FDA if the substance exists in their products or how the GRAS determination was made. A U.S. GAO (General Accountability Office) report states, “FDA does not know to what extent, or even whether, companies track evolving scientific information about their GRAS substances. FDA's approach to regulating nanotechnology allows engineered nanomaterials to enter the food supply as GRAS substances without FDA's knowledge.” Therefore, not all vitamins are equal and quality matters. Essentially, consumers need to know what undeclared substances are added to their vitamins, however, there are no labeling requirements to help consumers make that determination. Some vitamins are made from primarily organic food sources such as in the Standard Process brand. This company concentrates certified organic foods into vitamin pills thereby setting a high standard of safety for the industry. This is a professional brand and is available through doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, and other licensed medical professionals.