Vitamin Supplements

Katrina Claghorn, RD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

I have been diagnosed with cancer. Should I take vitamin supplements?

Katrina Claghorn, RD, Oncology Dietitian for The University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

A well balanced diet should provide all of your vitamin and nutrient requirements. However, the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy can limit yourability to eat well. Also, the stress of the treatments may increase your nutritional needs. A standard multivitamin will provide the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA's) and therefore prevent potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

However, it is important to note that, while vitamin and mineral deficiencies may have serious health impacts, toxicities from excessive supplementation can also be serious. Consequently, it is recommended that you take no more than five times the RDA of any nutrient. For determining how much you need of any nutrient, refer to the National Research Council's RDA list, or ask your health care provider or a registered dietitian. Also, always tell your doctor about the supplements you are taking since some are known to adversely impact your treatment.


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