Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Washington University in St. Louis have found folic acid fortification of grain products in the United States may have an impact on lowering some childhood cancers.
The new research, published online today in the journal Pediatrics, shows fortification does not appear to be causing childhood cancer rates to increase, and also finds a notable decrease in two types of childhood cancer.
This study was led by Amy Linabery, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the University of Minnesota's Division of Pediatric Epidemiology and Clinical Research, and Kimberly Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, and co-authored by Julie Ross, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Pediatric Epidemiology and Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota. Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Children's Cancer Research Fund, Minneapolis.
Grain product fortification began in 1996, after the FDA determined prenatal folic acid could benefit infants by reducing the occurrence of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) and wanted to expand the benefits to all newborns. The population-level study by Linabery and colleagues compared data for incidence of childhood cancers before and after fortification began, using statistics from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) between 1986 and 2008; over 8,000 cancer cases were evaluated.
"We were looking to see if rates for childhood cancers dropped following the fortification mandate," said Linabery. "We were also watching closely to see if any cancers appeared to increase during the same time frame."