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Low Plasma Folate Linked to Lower Colorectal Cancer Risk

Study suggests a bell curve, with the highest and lowest levels offering the most protection

TUESDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with either low or high plasma folate concentrations may have a lower risk of colorectal cancer than those with intermediate levels, according to a study published online April 25 in the journal Gut. The study is one of the few to examine the effect of circulating folate levels, rather than dietary intake of folate, on colorectal cancer risk.

Bethany Van Guelpen, Ph.D., of Umea University in Sweden, and colleagues examined data from over 600 subjects who completed questionnaires on lifestyle and diet and had blood taken as part of the Northern Sweden Health and Disease Cohort. After 17 years of follow-up, 226 people had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Subjects with follow-up times greater than the median of 4.2 years had plasma folate concentrations that were correlated to colorectal cancer risk.

In line with the findings of previous studies, people with the highest levels of folate had a reduced risk of CRC. However, those with the lowest folate levels had equal protection from risk. Subjects in the middle of the curve were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer risk as those on either the low end or the high end.

"Our findings suggest a decreased colorectal cancer risk in subjects with low folate status," the authors conclude. "This possibility of a detrimental component to the role of folate in carcinogenesis could have implications in the ongoing debate in Europe concerning mandatory folate fortification of foods."

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