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D.iet & H.ealth : C.ancer Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Folate deficiency raises colorectal cancer risk
By Jimmy Downs -
Nov 2, 2006, 15:06

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A diet low in folate increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer in mice, a new Canadian study found. The animal study suggested taking folate supplements or using a folate-rich diet can reduce the risk in humans.

In the study, published in the November 1, 2006 issue of Cancer Research, the researchers fed mice either a diet low in folate or a control diet with sufficient folate to see how folate affects the risk of colorectal cancer.

"None of the mice fed a control diet developed tumours whereas 1 in 4 mice on the folate-deficient diet developed at least one tumour." says Dr. Rima Rozen, Scientific Director of the Montreal Children's Hospital, Deputy Scientific Director of the McGill University Health Centre, and lead investigator in the study.

The study found that low intake of folate causes genes which help repair DNA damage to behave abnormally, raising the risk of the development of tumours.

Earlier studies by Dr. Rozen's team and other researchers also suggested that intake of an adequate amount of dietary folate helps prevent a number of other diseases such as heart disease.

Folate, routinely added into processed foods such as cereal mainly to help prevent birth defects such as Spina Birfida, is found in vegetables including cowpeas, spinach, asparagus, vegetarian baked beans, green peas, broccoli, avocado, peanuts, wheat germ, tomato juice, turnip greens, orange, cantaloupe, papaya and banana.

In Canada, 20,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 8,500 deaths from the disease are expected every year, according to a news release by McGill University. This is compared to 140,000 cases and 55,000 deaths in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 34,900 cases and 16,000 deaths in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.

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