Multivitamin Use and Overall and Site-Specific Cancer Risks in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study

J Nutr. 2022 Jan 11;152(1):211-216. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab322.


Background: Multivitamins are among the most commonly used supplements in the United States, but their effectiveness in preventing cancer remains unclear.

Objectives: We prospectively examined the association between multivitamin use and risks of overall and site-specific cancer in a large, well-characterized cohort to ascertain potential preventive or harmful relationships.

Methods: We examined 489,640 participants ages 50-71 in the NIH-American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Diet and Health Study who were enrolled from 1995 to 1998. We linked to 11 state cancer registries in order to identify incident cancers. Multivitamin use was assessed by a baseline questionnaire. Cox proportional hazards regression models of multivitamin use were used to estimate HRs and 95% CIs for cancer risks in men and women, adjusted for potential confounders, including age, BMI, smoking, physical activity, the Healthy Eating Index 2015 score, and use of single-vitamin/-mineral supplements.

Results: A slightly higher overall cancer risk was observed in men (but not women) who consumed 1 or more multivitamins daily compared to nonusers [HRs, 1.02 (95% CI: 1.01-1.04) and 1.03 (95% CI: 1.00-1.07), respectively; P-trend = 0.002]. The latter reflected higher risks for prostate cancer (HR, 1.04; 95% CI: 0.98-1.10; P-trend = 0.005), lung cancer (HR, 1.07; 95% CI: 0.96-1.20; P-trend = 0.003), and leukemia (HR, 1.26; 95% CI: 1.02-1.57; P-trend = 0.003). Taking more than 1 multivitamin daily was also strongly positively associated with the risk of oropharyngeal cancer in women (HR, 1.53, 95% CI: 1.04-2.24; P-trend < 0.0001). By contrast, daily multivitamin use was inversely associated with the colon cancer risk in both sexes (HR, 0.82; 95% CI: 0.73-0.93; P-trend = 0.0003).

Conclusions: We found little evidence to support a cancer-preventive role for multivitamin use, with the exception of colon cancer, in both sexes in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. In addition, slightly higher risks of overall, prostate, and lung cancer, as well as leukemia, were observed for greater multivitamin use in men, with a higher oropharyngeal cancer risk in women.

Keywords: AARP Study; cancer risk; multivitamins; prospective cohort; supplements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Neoplasms*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vitamins*


  • Vitamins