High Dietary Folate Linked to Lower Pancreatic Cancer Risk

No protective effect seen with folate supplements

THURSDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- A study of nearly 82,000 Swedish men and women shows that those who have the highest intake of dietary folate, typically by eating fruits and leafy green vegetables, reduce their chances of pancreatic cancer by more than 50 percent, according to a report in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Susanna C. Larsson, M.Sc., from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues reviewed a 1997 diet-related questionnaire survey that included 81,922 men and women enrolled in the Swedish Mammography Cohort and the Cohort of Swedish Men. Average follow-up was 6.8 years, during which time 135 pancreatic cancers were diagnosed.

Those with the highest dietary folate intake of 350 micrograms or more per day had a relative risk of 0.25, compared with the lowest intake group of less than 200 daily micrograms. After adjusting for sex and age, the investigators estimated there would be 41 pancreatic cancers per 100,000 person-years in the low-intake group, compared with 18 cancers in the high intake group.

While the protective mechanism of folate remains unknown, the researchers suggest its role in DNA methylation, synthesis and/or repair may be responsible.

"Although our results suggest that increased consumption of foods naturally rich in folate may be beneficial, they do not encourage increased use of supplements for the prevention of pancreatic cancer," the authors conclude.

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