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Colon cancer Linked to low-folate diet

cy are at a risk of producing offspring with neural tube defects like spina bifida.

Rozen however stressed that she's not suggesting people start loading up on folic acid but rather make sure that they get the recommended daily allowance of 400 micrograms by eating foods such as broccoli, spinach and orange juice, or by taking a multivitamin.

She said, "I want to make sure people understand the value of recommended daily allowances. I don't want people to go out and take pharmacologic doses of anything . . . In moderation, folate is important."

The researchers also tested mice with a genetic mutation that impairs the body's ability to metabolize folic acid. It was found that rodents with the mutation and also fed a low-folate diet had more than double the incidence of intestinal tumours.

"It's sort of a double whammy in the sense that it's not only the low dietary folate, but it's the combination," Rozen said, noting that 10 per cent of humans are believed to carry a similar genetic mutation.

According to Dr. Andy Smith, a colorectal cancer surgeon at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, the study is important because it appears to confirm the long-held suspicion that inadequate folic acid plays a role in tumor formation.

He said, "It really helps tease out the actual mechanisms." While the mechanism found in mice cannot be though to be exactly the same as in humans, Smith said, "I think in this case it really resonates because of the observations made so clearly in humans that low folate is associated with the development of tumors."

However, Smith said he operates on many people with colorectal cancer who have "beautiful diets."

He said, "Even if you have a healthy diet, you still ought to be talking to your physician about whether you should be having a test to screen for colorectal cancer" recommending that Canadians aged 50 or older should have a fecal occul
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