Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 1, Issue 6, pp 295–297

Critical reappraisal of vitamins and trace minerals in nutritional support of cancer patients

  • H. B. Stähelin
Review Articles

DOI: 10.1007/BF00364966

Cite this article as:
Stähelin, H.B. Support Care Cancer (1993) 1: 295. doi:10.1007/BF00364966


The potential of a high intake of fresh fruits and vegetables in cancer prevention is well established. Epidemiological studies support carotene, vitamins A, C, E and selenium as the active compounds. Antioxidant properties and direct effects (e.g. inhibition of N-nitrosamine formation or cell-to-cell interactions) are invoked. The role of other trace elements is less clear. The modulation of immune function by vitamins and trace elements remains important and affects survival. In established cancers, the site-specific differences in the diet/cancer relation require appropriate dietary changes, e.g. low fat (20% by energy) in breast cancer, or high vegetable or fruit intake in lung cancer. Single high-dose supplements (e.g. vitamin C) have proved to have no curative or life-prolonging effect. Chemotherapy and radiation increase the requirements for antioxidant compounds. Supplementation can diminish the damage induced by peroxidation. Carefully planned and monitored trials that establish the optimal intake of micronutrients as adjuvants in cancer patients are required.

Key words

Nutrition in cancer Vitamins Antioxidants Trace minerals 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. B. Stähelin
    • 1
  1. 1.Geriatric University ClinicKantonsspitalBaselSwitzerland

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