Folic acid ‘cancer risk’ fears played down by study
Worries that taking extra folic acid might increase the chance of cancer had been played down by a tremendous study.
Following Canadian research linking the vitamin with a small rise in cancer, the study inside the Lancet journal checked out data from 50,000 people.
It found no significant differences in those taking folic acid.
Taken in early pregnancy, it reduces the possibilities of certain birth defects and there were calls so as to add it to food within the UK.
Many countries, including america and Canada, South Africa and Australia, already add folate – often known as folic acid or Vitamin B9 – to all flour.
It is proven to attenuate the collection of babies born with “neural tube defects” akin to spina bifida.
One of the unique reasons behind this more cautious approach in western Europe was the danger that folic acid supplementation could disguise anaemia symptoms in a small variety of older people.
However, another more pressing concern was prompted by the 2007 study that found the incidence of colorectal cancer, which have been falling within the US and Canada, rose temporarily just after the vitamin was automatically added to flour.
One theory suggested that folate had boosted the expansion of tiny, as-yet undetected cancers or pre-cancers, permitting them to be diagnosed earlier and giving the impression that cancer rates had increased.
The Lancet study compared cancer rates over a five-year period in 50,000 people from several countries, some taking a folic acid supplement and a few a placebo.
The doses of folate tended to be much higher than those proposed for mandatory fortification of flour, but a slight increase in cancer incidence recorded on this group didn’t reach statistical significance, meaning it usually is the fabricated from chance alone.
One of the report authors, Dr Robert Clarke, from the Clinical Trial Service Unit on the University of Oxford, said that the findings were “reassuring”.
“If there has been a considerable effect, we might expect to have seen it by now,” he added.
He said that while the doses proposed for mandatory fortification of flour were much less than those within the study, a small proportion of folk were known to mix this with extra supplements.
He said: “If there’s any caution now, here’s the crowd of individuals involved.”
New restrictions at the availability of high-dose supplements are one possible solution.
The UK’s chief medical officers have already recommended that folate be added to flour, and the call now rests with government ministers.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “It is a complicated issue, with a balance of risks and benefits which ministers should consider very carefully. We already advise women deliberating starting a family and pregnant women to take folic acid supplements.”
The British Dietetic Association says that fortification can be a “simple way” to extend folic acid intake around the population.
Spokesman Dr Sarah Schenker said that while there has been still some caution over anaemia within the elderly, overall the advantages would outweigh the hazards.
She said: “It could possibly certainly be recommended to pregnant women and people who may become pregnant.
“Fortification can be a good suggestion because our health messages about healthy eating aren’t always getting through.”