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Folic Acid and Other B Vitamins Won't Help Prevent Cancer
Date:11/4/2008

Seven-year study of supplements found no change in disease risk,,,,

TUESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Taking folic acid or other B vitamin supplements won't lower your risk of cancer, new research shows.

However, the good news is that it won't increase your risk either, according to the study, which was published in the Nov. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"In women at risk of cardiovascular disease, we found that folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 had no beneficial or harmful effects on the risk of invasive cancer or breast cancer," said study author Dr. Shumin Zhang, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

Because adequate levels of folic acid in women have been proven to prevent serious birth defects, the government has mandated that folic acid be added to cereals and breads since January 1998, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, about one-third of U.S. adults take a daily multi-vitamin that contains folic acid, B6 and B12, according to the study. Some studies have suggested that supplements of these nutrients might be protective against cancer, though results have been inconsistent, according to background information in the study.

One study even suggested that such supplements might raise the risk of cancer.

To address these concerns, Zhang and colleagues reviewed data on 5,442 women who participated in the Women's Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study. All of the women were over 42 years old, and had either preexisting cardiac disease or three or more risk factors for heart disease.

The study participants were randomly assigned to receive either a supplement containing 2.5 milligrams (mg) of folic acid, 50 mg of vitamin B6 and 1 mg of vitamin B12, or a placebo. The study lasted 7.3 years, from April 1998
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