A new study finds that fortification of grains with folic acid seems to reduce rate of occurrence of two childhood cancers – neuroectodermal tumors and Wilms tumor, in addition to reduced rates of neural tube defects in newborns, as reported in the New York Times. The study titled, ‘Childhood Cancer Incidence Trends in Association with US Folic Acid Fortification (1986-2008)’is authored by Amy M. Linabery, MS, PhD, Kimberly J. Johnson, MPH, PhD, and Julie A. Ross, PhD and has been published in the journal Pediatrics.
The research team used the surveillance system developed by the National Cancer Institute to record over 8000 cancers in utero and in children below the age of 5 in the period between 1986 to 2008. The incidence of cancers in the years before 1998 and after 1998 was compared. It was in the year 1998 that the FDA mandated compulsory fortification of cereals and other grain products with folic acid.
Findings of the Study
- 8829 children in the age group of 0 to 4 years were diagnosed with cancer. This included 3790 and 3299 in utero during pre and post-fortification periods respectively.
- There was no difference in incidence of all childhood cancers combined. Pre and post fortification incidence rates were almost similar for cancers and for most specific cancer types.
- However, for two cancers there was a significant difference.
- There was a decline of 44% in incidence of primitive neuroectodermal tumors, a kind of nervous system lesion.
- There was a 20% decline in the incidence of Wilms tumor, a kidney cancer.
The scientists feel that the findings have given rise to a few hypotheses which would need further investigations. However, the one thing the findings prove is the fortification of grains with folic acid certainly does not increase incidence of childhood cancer.
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