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J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Jun;10(3):560-4.

The use of dietary supplements by veterans with cancer.

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  • 1University of Cincinnati and Veterans Administration Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA.



To study the patterns of dietary supplement use in veterans with cancer.


Using a detailed questionnaire, a cross-sectional study was conducted to determine the patterns of dietary supplement use by patients with cancer.


The study was conducted at the Hematology/ Oncology Clinic at the VA Hospital in Cincinnati, OH.


Patients with malignancy who were attending the above clinic and willing to participate and sign a consent form were enrolled in the study. OUTCOMES/MEASURES: The use of dietary supplements, the type, frequency, and reason for use was captured, along with the source of dietary supplements and perceived benefits.


Two hundred (200) veterans were surveyed, with a median age of 68 years (36-82). The type of malignancy included cancer of the genitourinary system (39.5%), lung (19.5%), gastrointestinal tract (14.5%), hematologic system (16%), skin/head/neck (6.5%), and other (4%). One hundred and twenty-two patients (122) used dietary supplements (61%). Multivitamins were the most commonly used dietary supplement reported by 98 patients (80.3%), followed by mineral use by 52 patients (40.6%). Ten (10) patients used herbal supplements. Patients who were employed and patients with higher education were more likely to use dietary supplements. Different reasons were given for dietary supplement use and 74% of the users reported perceived benefits, such as improved overall health and energy. While 38% of the patients did not disclose dietary supplement use to their physicians, 37.8% of them learned about dietary supplements from their physicians and 25% obtained their dietary supplements from the VA hospital.


The use of dietary supplements is common among veterans with cancer. Health care professionals should inquire about them in a systematic fashion and be prepared to provide counseling to their patients about them.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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