How Seniors Can Reduce Cancer Risk

How Seniors Can Reduce Cancer Risk
By Andrew Luer
Category: Cancer

There’s a lot of talk about the value of taking nutritional supplements. And ultimately, at the end of the day, the question we need to ask is, what does the science have to say about their benefits?  In general, the scientific research evaluates nutritional supplements and their role in health and disease prevention by evaluating them individually. The notion of studying more than one supplement or variable at a time, especially in an interventional way to determine if there’s any modification of health or risk of a particular disease seems to run counter to the way science is done in the Western world.

Nonetheless, we are now starting to see research that actually does exactly this. In fact, a new study evaluated a combination of two nutritional supplements as well as a home exercise program to determine if  this combination had any effect on the risk of cancer among active adult aged 70 or older. I certainly welcome this new approach to science in that it more closely emulates the various changes that people experience in their lifestyle choices, including how and what supplements they may take.

This was a very large study conducted between December 2012 in December 2017 in five different European countries. The interventions were vitamin D 2000 international units daily or not, marine derived omega-3’s, 1 g per day or not, as well as a simple home exercise program or not. The outcome that the researchers looked for was the verification of some form of invasive cancer. The study involved 2,157 participants who were all age 70 or older.

The results of this study were quite remarkable. Cancer risk for those just getting the vitamin D intervention was reduced by 24%. For those receiving the omega-3’s, cancer risk was reduced by 30% with a 26% reduction in cancer risk for those who just were given the exercise program.

For those who received the omega-3’s and vitamin D, risk was reduced by 47%. Risk for cancer was reduced by 44% in those receiving vitamin D along with the exercise program. Finally, perhaps most importantly, in comparison to those receiving no treatment, cancer risk was reduced by 61% in those receiving the exercise program, the vitamin D, as well as omega-3 supplement.

Each of these interventions has been described as having an impact on risk for the development of cancer through various mechanisms. The research study in fact reviews the various mechanisms whereby each of these interventions may have a role in a cancer prevention program. Nonetheless, it is certainly refreshing to see a combination type of intervention which, according this study, really provided an incredible outcome. As the authors stated in their conclusion:

“In conclusion, this is the first randomized-controlled trial to investigate the combination of three complementary treatments for the prevention of cancer and suggest that the combination of daily vitamin D3, supplemental marine omega-3s, and a simple home exercise program may be effective in the prevention of invasive cancer among generally healthy and active adults aged 70 and older.”

The choice of the study population being age 70 years or above makes sense in that this is the segment of our population at highest risk for developing cancer. Nonetheless, I feel we can generalize these results to younger aged individuals as the therapeutic mechanisms are certainly active even in young adults. 

I think it is fair to say that most people embrace the notion that physical exercise is a good thing. This was certainly confirmed in the study. Beyond that however, there’s always questions raised about whether we should or shouldn’t be taking various nutritional supplements. This study was conducted at some of the best institutions on the planet and revealed impressive data as to the role of vitamin D as well as marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids in terms of cancer risk reduction.

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