Study links folic acid to reduced tumor risk

by Jeff Gelski
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ELK GROVE VILLAGE, ILL. — The U.S. mandatory fortification of enriched grain products with folic acid was associated with a decrease in the risk of Wilms tumors, which are kidney tumors, and possibly a decrease in the incidence of primitive neuroectodermal tumors, which are brain tumors, according to a study published on-line May 21 in Pediatrics, the journal of the Elk Grove-based American Academy of Pediatrics. Both tumors are found in children. The study did not provide support for a decrease in other childhood cancers after U.S. folic acid fortification.

The number of neural tube birth defects in the United States has declined since the Food and Drug Administration mandated fortification of enriched grain products in 1998.

The recent study evaluated cancer incidence trends from 1986 to 2008. Researchers from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Washington University in St. Louis calculated incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals to compare pre- and post-fortification cancer incidence rates among children aged 0-4.

A total of 8,829 children were diagnosed with malignancies. Incidence rates, both pre-fortification and post-fortification, were similar for all cancers combined and for most specific cancer types. Researchers detected increasing incidence of Wilms tumors from 1986 through 1997, which was followed by a sizable decline from 1997 through 2008. They detected increasing incidence of primitive neuroectodermal tumors from 1986 through 1993, which was followed by a sharp decrease from 1993 through 2008.

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