Life Extension Update
Higher folate and B12 intake associated with reduced breast cancer risk
The March 2006 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention published a report by Mexican researchers that women whose intake of folate, the dietary form of the B vitamin folic acid, and vitamin B12 was high had a lower risk of breast cancer than that experienced by women whose intake was low.
Four hundred seventy-five Mexican women aged 23 to 87 diagnosed with breast cancer were compared with 1,391 women without the disease for the current study. Dietary questionnaires completed by the participants were analyzed for folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 content.
Adjusted analyses determined a lower risk of breast cancer associated with higher folate and B12 intake, however no association with vitamin B6 was found. The inverse association was greater among postmenopausal subjects. Women whose folate was in the top 25 percent of participants experienced a 36 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those whose intake was in the lowest quarter. This inverse association was stronger in women whose diets provided relatively high levels of vitamin B12. For vitamin B12, women in the top fourth had a 78 percent lower risk compared to the lowest quarter.
In their discussion of a possible mechanism for the vitamins in breast cancer protection, the authors observed that folate is a precursor of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which is necessary for methylation reactions and for the synthesis of a compound called thymidilate, needed for DNA replication and repair. Vitamin B12 participates in folate metabolism, and low levels also affect DNA methylation.
In their introduction, the authors write, “In contrast with most known risk factors for breast cancer, dietary factors are potentially modifiable, making their identification essential.” They conclude, “Vitamin deficiency is a potentially modifiable risk factor which can be addressed by health education and expansion of fortification programs.” Further evaluation of the relation between vitamin intake and breast cancer in this population is recommended.
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