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News » Filed under: Colon/Rectum Cancer

Study: Consuming More Folate May Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Article date: July 15, 2011

By Stacy Simon

Taking high levels of folate, a B vitamin found naturally in leafy green vegetables, peanuts, and other foods, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a new study by researchers from the American Cancer Society. But lead researcher Victoria Stevens, PhD, cautions that this does not necessarily mean Americans should increase their use of folate or folic acid supplements. In fact, Dr. Stevens said she was surprised at the high levels of folate Americans are consuming.

The study, which appears in the journal Gastroenterology, is the first to examine the association between total folate consumption and colorectal cancer risk after 1998, which is when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that most enriched grain products sold in the U.S. be fortified with folic acid, the synthetic form of the vitamin.

The research team analyzed the association between folate consumption and colorectal cancer among 99,523 people participating in the national Cancer Prevention Study II. Between 1999 and 2007, 1,023 participants were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The researchers found that neither folic acid nor folate consumption was linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer on its own. What's more, consumption of high levels of both folic acid and folate combined was associated with a lowered colorectal cancer risk.

The findings may help address concerns that the FDA-mandated fortification might actually increase the risk of cancer. Researchers found no evidence that dietary fortification or folic acid supplementation increases colorectal cancer risk. Many people in the study consumed more than the FDA’s recommended daily value of 400 micrograms per day for folate and folic acid combined.

Folates are essential nutrients for normal cell growth, DNA synthesis and repair. Because of this, researchers are studying the association between folate consumption and cancer risk. And folates are especially important during periods of rapid cell division and growth such as infancy and pregnancy.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases.

Citation: High Levels of Folate, from Supplements and Fortification, are Not Associated with Increased Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Published in the July 2011 issue of Gastroenterology (Vol. 141, No. 1). First author: Victoria L. Stevens, PhD, Epidemiology Research, American Cancer Society, Atlanta.

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