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Researchers Find Folic Acid, B Vitamins Do Not Prevent Cancer

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, November 05, 2008 12:01 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Women's Health, Folic Acid, Heart Disease, Cancer, Breast Cancer, Vitamins, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12


IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons / folic acid / author: Oks

Daily intake of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid does not reduce the risk of cancer in women who are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

The study is published in the November 5 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School evaluated 5,442 female health-care professionals, 42 and older, with a known history of heart disease, or three or more risk factors associated with the diseases’ onset.

The study aimed at evaluating the effects of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid and the risk of cancer among women prone to developing heart disease.

Researchers have been exploring whether a number of different vitamins play an important role in cancer prevention.

For the study, researchers split the women in two groups. The first group received daily supplements of folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. And the second group was given a placebo.

For seven years thereafter, participants received vitamin packs that contained their medication, surveys on adherence, adverse effects, overall health and risk factors.

The findings show that 379 of the 5,442 participants developed invasive cancer. 187 participants had received the supplement combination, while the rest (192) received the placebo.

“Women who received the active treatment had a similar risk of developing complete invasive cancer, breast cancer, or any cancer death, compared with placebo, wrote researchers, who included Shumin M. Zhang, M.D., ScD.

A significantly lower risk of total invasive cancer and breast cancer was detected among women 65 years or older when the trial first started. However, no reduction in risk was seen in younger women.

“The study findings may have significant impact on public health if substantiated because the rate of cancer incidence is high among elderly persons. The findings are biologically possible because elderly individuals have an increased need for these vitamins,” wrote study authors.

The study concluded that B vitamins and folic acid did not affect the overall risk of total cancer, breast cancer or death from cancers among women at risk for heart disease.

People can get folic acid and other B vitamins in their diet through eating leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals or by taking vitamin supplements.

It is important for people to get the proper amount of B vitamins, which are essential nutrients for growth, development and a host of other functions. Folic acid aids the production of red blood cells and is important for women to prevent certain birth defects.

Another recent study found that vitamin B supplements do not slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Researchers hypothesized that vitamin B might be beneficial in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms because the nutrient lowers blood levels of homocysteine. #

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