Effect of vitamin B supplementation on cancer incidence, death due to cancer, and total mortality: A PRISMA-compliant cumulative meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Aug;95(31):e3485. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000003485.


Background: Observational studies have suggested that vitamin B supplementation is associated with cancer risk, but this association remains controversial. A pooled data-based meta-analysis was conducted to summarize the evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effects of vitamin B supplementation on cancer incidence, death due to cancer, and total mortality.

Methods: PubMed, EmBase, and the Cochrane Library databases were searched to identify trials to fit our analysis through August 2015. Relative risk (RR) was used to measure the effect of vitamin B supplementation on the risk of cancer incidence, death due to cancer, and total mortality using a random-effect model. Cumulative meta-analysis, sensitivity analysis, subgroup analysis, heterogeneity tests, and tests for publication bias were also conducted.

Results: Eighteen RCTs reporting the data on 74,498 individuals were included in the meta-analysis. Sixteen of these trials included 4103 cases of cancer; in 6 trials, 731 cancer-related deaths occurred; and in 15 trials, 7046 deaths occurred. Vitamin B supplementation had little or no effect on the incidence of cancer (RR: 1.04; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98-1.10; P = 0.216), death due to cancer (RR, 1.05; 95% CI: 0.90-1.22; P = 0.521), and total mortality (RR, 1.00; 95% CI: 0.94-1.06; P = 0.952). Upon performing a cumulative meta-analysis for cancer incidence, death due to cancer, and total mortality, the nonsignificance of the effect of vitamin B persisted. With respect to specific types of cancer, vitamin B supplementation significantly reduced the risk of skin melanoma (RR, 0.47; 95% CI: 0.23-0.94; P = 0.032).

Conclusion: Vitamin B supplementation does not have an effect on cancer incidence, death due to cancer, or total mortality. It is associated with a lower risk of skin melanoma, but has no effect on other cancers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Vitamin B Complex / administration & dosage*


  • Vitamin B Complex