Does folic acid cause breast cancer?
Ask Dr. Kim . . .
Dr. Young-in Kim, a researcher and physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, has for the first time successfully proven that folic acid supplements–in dosages of 2.5 to five times the daily required dose—“significantly promotes” the development of existing carcinogenic or precancerous units in the mammary organs of rats.
Kim, whose research was just published in the online medical journal PLOS ONE, is also a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, says these results clearly suggest that women who take large doses of folic acid can develop breast cancer. Indeed, members of the medical community have more recently considered folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin, to be “highly controversial”.
The quantity of folic acid used in North America alone has significantly increased over the past decade and a half. Pregnant women are routinely told to take folic acid in order to avoid such neural tube birth defects as spina bifida. While some research once indicated it offered some protection against breast cancer, more recent research indicates that large amounts of folic acid can actually increase the risk of getting breast cancer.
Kim states: “This is a critically important issue because breast cancer patients and survivors in North America are exposed to high levels of folic acid through folic acid fortification in food and widespread use of vitamin supplements after a cancer diagnosis. Cancer patients and survivors in North America have a high prevalence of multivitamin and supplement use, with breast cancer patients and survivors having the highest prevalence.”
Since 1998 both the US and Canadian governments have required manufacturers of food to put folic acid into such items as enriched pasta, white flour and cornmeal products to ensure that women do not suffer from a deficiency. Research also reveals that at least 30 percent of North Americans take folic acid supplements in hope of obtaining unproven health benefits.
(Image courtesy of St. Michael’s Hospital)