Help or Harm?
Nutritional supplements and cancer treatment often don't mix
Research on nutritional supplements and
herbal products is far from conclusive, but
an estimated 65% to 80%t of
cancer patients already use them.
Turmeric is likely safe for most
people, but it should be avoided
during chemotherapy, radiation or
See our Nutritional supplements Chart
for information on which supplements help or hurt.
With so many possible agents to investigate, conclusive evidence of true benefit is hard
to come by.
Because of this, the American Institute for Cancer Research does not recommend the use of supplements to protect against
cancer. But if you do take a nutritional supplement or herbal product, the goal is to do no harm: Avoid supplements that
may interfere with treatment, cause side effects that could hinder adequate nutrition, or cause significant discomfort or
damage to your body.
The following is a list of common nutritional supplements and herbal products used for the treatment of cancer or associated side effects. Use it to start
a conversation with your health care team about what is best for you during your treatment.
Acai berry is another supplement that's likely safe for most people, but should be avoided during chemotherapy and
radiation therapy because of its antioxidant properties.
A general multivitamin with minerals containing no more than 200% to 300% of the Daily Reference Intake may be beneficial, but it is important to
know manufacturers of nutritional supplements are not obligated to follow the strict government regulations written for drug manufacturers. This means the content, strength and
purity of a supplement may vary among brands and even different batches of the same
brand. To ensure the supplement you are taking contains the ingredients listed and does
not contain harmful levels of contaminants, look for the U.S. Pharmacopeia, Consumer
Lab.com or NSF international seal of approval.
The bottom line is that a healthy, well-balanced diet including lots of plant-based
foods-such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables-is most strongly and consistently
associated with cancer reduction and lower recurrence rates. The benefi cial effects of the
vitamins and minerals contained in these foods just can't be matched with an isolated
nutritional supplement or herbal product.
Please see our Nutritional supplements Chart for information on which supplements help or hurt.