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Article

Dietary Supplement Use in Adult Cancer Survivors

Paige E. Miller
Joseph J. Vasey
Pamela F. Short
Terryl J. Hartman
ONF 2009, 36(1), 61-68 DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.61-68

Purpose/Objectives: To assess dietary supplement use and its association with demographic and health-related characteristics among cancer survivors and to investigate differences in supplement use patterns by cancer site.

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Setting: Computer-assisted telephone survey.

Sample: 1,233 adult (ages 30-69) survivors participating in the Penn State Cancer Survivor Study who underwent an interviewer-administered questionnaire.

Methods: Descriptive statistics with multivariate logistic regression to determine demographic, disease, and health-related predictors of supplement use.

Main Research Variables: Use of dietary supplements and types of supplements taken.

Findings: Supplement use ranged from 50% among blood cancer survivors to 85% among melanoma skin cancer survivors, with an overall prevalence rate of 73%. Multivariate logistic regression revealed statistically significant associations (p values < 0.05) between supplement use and older age (> age 50), higher levels of education and physical activity, female gender, lower body mass index, and white ethnicity.

Conclusions: Overall, a wide variety of supplements were reported, although multivitamins, calcium and vitamin D combinations, and antioxidant vitamin combinations were the most prevalent. Seventy-eight percent of supplement users took more than one supplement.

Implications for Nursing: The findings support continued efforts by oncology nurses to identify the types of supplements cancer survivors are using. Nurses should caution against the use of individual supplements as well as combinations of different supplements containing nutrient quantities above recommended daily intake levels. Furthermore, oncology nurses and other healthcare professionals should be receptive to questions and prepared to initiate conversations with patients about their use of dietary supplements.

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