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Dietary Supplement Use Common in Cancer Patients

Risk of interactions between supplement and prescription medications

THURSDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of cancer patients in a veterans' hospital report using dietary supplements, with a risk existing for interactions between the supplement and prescription medications, according to a study in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Abdul-Rahman Jazieh, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, and colleagues administered a survey on the use of dietary supplements to 200 patients being seen at the hematology/oncology clinic at a veterans' hospital in Cincinnati.

The researchers found that 61 percent of patients used dietary supplements, although only 28 percent of these patients had this noted in their medical records. The study found that 80.3 percent of these patients were taking multivitamins, 40.6 percent were taking minerals, and 24.8 percent were taking herbal preparations. More than half of patients (54 percent) reported using more than one supplement. Based on their medication profiles, the authors determined that 12 percent of patients were at risk of an interaction between a supplement and a prescription medication, such as decreased anticoagulation, decreased absorption, decreased therapeutic effect, or increased hypotension. Unmarried veterans were at significantly higher risk of interactions.

"Dietary supplementation by a veteran cancer population is common," the authors write. "Interactions between the supplement and prescription medication is a potential problem. Patient-physician discussion and documentation of these issues should be systematically addressed."

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