Myth vs. Truth

MYTH: Multivitamins lower the risk of cancer.

TRUTH: The relationship between multivitamins and cancer is complex; in some studies they help – in others they harm – in yet others they don’t change outcomes. Keep things in perspective. As with all studies, patients with different lifestyles may get different results, so the best option is lifestyle modification and cancer screenings. If you do take a multivitamin, bear in mind that more isn’t always better. For example high doses of vitamins A, E or K can lead to toxicity and other harms. Consult your physician before starting or stopping any medication (including supplements) is always the best advice.

MYTH: All sunscreens protect agains UVA and UVB radiation damage to the skin.

TRUTH: Not so. Read the FDA sunscreen labeling required on these products and understand what you are reading, as the labeling can be confusin. Labels that say “broad spectrum” means the product protects against both UVA and UVA rays and “water resistant” means the sunscreen will stay on for up to 80 minutes but will eventually wash off. All sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours or after leaving the water. Apply at least a shot glass full over all exposed skin 30 minutes before going into the sun. If bug repellent is needed, consider putting on sunscreen first so it will better bind to the skin.

MYTH: Using fertility drugs increases a woman’s risk of cancer.

TRUTH: Some experts are concerned about risk because fertility treatments result in incessant ovulation and that has been linked to ovarian and breast cancers. Fertility drugs also raise estrogen and progesterone levels, which could increase cancer risk similar to how postmenopausal hormone therapy can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Pregnancy causes a dual effect on breast cancer risk – it increases risk short-term, but leads to a long-term reduction in risk. However, the majority of recent evidence does NOT show an increase in cancer risk with fertility drugs and, even if there is some increased risk, it is likely very small and may be balanced by pregnancy’s protective effects against cancer. Discuss all concerns with your physician.

MYTH: Artificial sweeteners are a good options to replace sugar for diabetes patients.

TRUTH: Zero-calorie sweeteners are safer than consuming large quantities of sugar as they don’t raise blood glucose in patients with diabetes, but NOT if they are used as a ticket to consume more calories. Much better choices are foods without added sugar or sweeteners like fruits, veggies, whole grains and no-fat or low-fat dairy. But if you have a persistent sweet tooth, look for products that use an FDA-approved agent.

All information in “Myth vs Truth” statements has been obtained through subscription to and with the permission of The Pharmacist’s Letter website