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Folate May Reduce The Risk of Pre-Menopausal Breast Cancer

In 2011, scientists estimate that over 235,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, with a worldwide total of over 1 million cases. Recent research suggests that increased intake of folate may help prevent breast cancer in premenopausal women.

The research was conducted at the Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and the Shanghai Cancer Institute. Their findings were first published online ahead of print on March 29, 2011 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers examined data from the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, which took place between 1997 and 2008. The United States has fortified grain products with folic acid since 1998, but at the time of the study China had no such requirement. As a result, only 13% of Chinese women had folate levels in line with the US recommended dietary allowance, making the effects of folic acid supplementation on breast cancer much clearer.

Over the course of the study, 718 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The study revealed that premenopausal women who consumed an average of 404 mg of folate per day were 42% less likely to develop breast cancer than women consuming 194 mg per day.

The researchers also looked at the relationship between the incidence of breast cancer and intake of niacin and vitamins B6 and B12. They found that consuming 17.6 mg of niacin (vitamin B3) resulted in a 60% increase in hormone-sensitive breast cancer, one of the most common types of breast cancer in American women. They found no link between vitamin B6 and B12 intake and the risk of breast cancer.

Folate can be found in liver, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus, leafy green vegetables, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupes, and other melons. The man-made version of folate is called folic acid and it can be found in supplement form and as an additive in foods such as bread, cereal and grains.

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