Breast cancer patients may benefit from taking supplements containing both multivitamins and minerals, according to new research involving thousands of postmenopausal women.
The study, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, found that the risk of dying from invasive breast cancer was 30 percent lower among those who take vitamins, compared women who don't.
"Our study offers tentative but intriguing evidence that multivitamin/mineral supplements may help older women who develop invasive breast cancer survive their disease," said lead researcher Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, professor emerita of epidemiology and health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
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Multivitamins and mineral supplements typically contain 20-30 active ingredients, often at levels of 100 percent of U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances.
The new study was conducted as part of the Women's Health Initiative Clinical Trials and the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. It involved nearly 8,000 postmenopausal women with breast cancer who were tracked at clinical centers throughout the United States from 1993 to 1998.
About 38 percent of the women reported using supplements, often before being diagnosed with cancer. A comparison of mortality rates of the women showed those who took multivitamin/mineral supplements were about one-third less likely to die from their cancers those who hadn't taken supplements.
"[Considering] other factors strengthens our confidence that the association we observed — between taking multivitamin/mineral supplements and lowering breast-cancer mortality risk among postmenopausal women with invasive breast cancer — is a real one," said Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller.
"But further studies are needed to confirm whether there truly is a cause-and-effect relationship here. And our findings certainly cannot be generalized to premenopausal women diagnosed with invasive cancer or to other populations of women."
The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
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