According to researchers from Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, eating a daily multivitamin with at least 450 micrograms of folic acid can eliminate the genetic risk of developing colon cancer.
According to many researchers, individuals with a family history of colon cancer -- a parent or sibling are at increased risk, about a two-fold higher risk," Dr. Charles Fuchs, lead investigator and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University Medical School. "What we wanted to look at was the question of whether there is interaction between family history of colon cancer and the environment, between a genetic risk and the effects of eating and activities like that."
The research team retrospectively studied data from the Nurses' Health Study, an ongoing project tracking health information on 110,000 female registered nurses in the United States for the past 26 years. They examined records of the 70,000 nurses whose family health histories and dietary habits appeared in the database, focusing on behaviors known to be associated with colon cancer.
"We found that if subjects who had a family history of colon cancer regularly got high levels of folic acid, or folate, in their diet or through supplements, then the excess risk of colon cancer stemming from family history was largely eliminated," Fuchs said.
Prior research has suggested behavioral and dietary changes -- no smoking, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, no heavy red meat consumption and regular colon exams after age 50 -- reduces colon cancer risk in the general population.
Here, the investigators looked only for variations in behavior and diet showing a pattern of disease reduction among genetically compromised female subjects. Intake of at least 450 micrograms a day of folic acid emerged as the most important factor in neutralizing genetics.
According to him, a diet high in fruits, vegetables and products made with enriched flour contains significant levels of folic acid. But getting 400 micrograms a day, the standard used in our study, is easy with a daily multivitamin.
Fuchs also noted women who reported alcohol consumption equaling more than two glasses of wine a day appeared to compromise the beneficial effects of folic acid and increase the risk associated with family history. "This study is suggestive that women who know they have a family history of colon cancer strongly consider taking folate supplementation or a multivitamin with folate," Dr. Dukota Brooks, director of the colon cancer program of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, told United Press International. "Again, this is one study, but a very large study and pretty well-designed study. However it will need confirmation through further research."