High doses of folic acid don't raise cancer risk: study
The United States and Canada have required flour to be fortified with folic acid since 1998, after deficiencies of it in pregnant women were tied to brain and spinal cord birth defects in their babies.
But fortification isn't required in Western Europe, for example, partly out of concern that the extra folic acid might slightly increase people's risk of cancer due to its role in cell growth. Cells, including cancer cells, need folate - the natural form of folic acid - to grow and divide.
"Folic acid supplementation does not substantially increase or decrease incident of site-specific cancer during the first 5 years of treatment," researchers wrote in The Lancet.
"Fortification of flour and other cereal products involves doses of folic acid that are, on average, an order of magnitude smaller than the doses used in these trials.
For the analysis, the researchers combined data from 13 separate trials that randomly assigned participants to daily folic acid or a vitamin-free placebo and recorded who went on to develop cancer.
The studies included a total of close to 50,000 volunteers who were followed for just over five years, on average.
During that time, 7.7 percent of people in the folic acid groups, and 7.3 percent in the placebo groups, were diagnosed with any kind of cancer,
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