Is Your Multivitamin Giving You Cancer? I'll Show You How to Check.

Your multivitamin could be giving you cancer. No joke. I’m serious as cancer.

What part of your multivitamin is the culprit?

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The seemingly innocent vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene, can act as a carcinogen.

Does your multivitamin contain beta-carotene? You’ll have to look on the label for yourself, but my guess is it does. Many mainstream multivitamins utilize beta-carotene for some or ALL of their vitamin A. You may be shocked to learn some of the largest multivitamin companies use beta-carotene.


Why Beta-Carotene Is a Problem

Depending on your personal history, beta-carotene supplementation is associated with several different types of cancers.

If you are a smoker, beta-carotene supplementation at doses greater than 20 mg a day convincingly increases the risk of lung cancer. This is independent from the increased lung cancer risk attributed to smoking itself.

If you don’t smoke, you still may not be safe. If you have been exposed to asbestos, your risk of lung cancer increases convincingly, too. And it’s likely you have been exposed to asbestos.

The tricky thing with asbestos exposure is you may have NO idea if you’ve been exposed. According to The Mesothelioma Center, most everyone in their lifetime has been exposed to asbestos. The most common exposures are due to home or commercial renovation or remodeling and sandblasting. Asbestos exposure is more common than you think. Even though I am extra cautious, I was exposed to asbestos from neighbors doing unauthorized construction and leaving asbestos venting in an open dumpster.

Lung cancer isn’t the only risk. Beta-carotene supplementation in doses greater than 20 mg a day probably increases the risk of stomach cancer in smokers and those exposed to asbestos.

Where does this information come from? Multiple scientific studies reviewed in this article.

How to Check Your Multivitamin

Do you want to check your multivitamin right now? I don’t mind … I’ll still be here when you get back. Look for “beta-carotene” or check the list for vitamin A and see what the source is.

If the source is beta-carotene, you need to do some calculating. Multivitamin labels may list the beta-carotene in micrograms (mcg), milligrams (mg), or even as international units (IU) of vitamin A.

I’ll make this easy for you.

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If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in milligrams, just make sure your total daily milligrams are less than 20 a day. Keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in micrograms, you need to do a little math. Divide the number of micrograms by 1000 to get the number of milligrams. For example, if your multivitamin contains 3000 micrograms of beta-carotene, divide 3000 by 1000. 3000 divided by 1000 is 3. Therefore, your multivitamin contains 3 milligrams of  beta-carotene. So long as your total daily exposure is less 20 milligrams, you should be okay. Remember, if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

If your multivitamin lists beta-carotene in international until (IU) of vitamin A, the calculation gets trickier. You need to convert IU’s to milligrams. You do this by multiplying the number of IU’s by 0.0006. This will give you the number of milligrams of beta-carotene, which you want to be below 20 from all sources. Again, keep in mind if you use multiple supplements, more than just your multivitamin may contain beta-carotene.

Which Multivitamin Should You Take?

That’s a great question.

You may NOT even need a multivitamin. But if you do want to take one (because you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or exclude entire food groups, for example), there are things you can do to pick the best and safest option.

Check out my Multivitamin Buying Guide and My Favorite Multivitamins.

Spread the Word

Do you have a friend or family member that uses a multivitamin or other supplements? You probably do.

Please, please, please send them this post so they can make sure they’re not inadvertently increasing their risk of cancer.

Or share this post on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media. Because many cases of cancer can be prevented and we need to get the word out.

In health and happiness,
Skye