Canadian researchers have said that women who take vitamins containing folic acid before and during pregnancy, appear to significantly cut the risk that their infants will develop three common childhood cancers.
Folic acid is already known to diminish the chance that a child will be born with spina bifida or other neural tube defects, but it may also have powerful effects in preventing some cases of pediatric leukemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma, the study by researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children suggests. Besides, folic acid intake also improves one’s memory capacity.
“I think this is another piece of evidence that suggests that prenatal vitamins that include folic acid should be taken by women who plan to become pregnant,” said principal investigator Dr. Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at Sick Kids. “Because in addition to (neural tube) malformations, it seems to prevent a large proportion of common cancers in young children. This affordable approach could contribute to a significant reduction in the number of childhood cancer cases diagnosed each year, which has huge implications for society at large,” he added.
Leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, accounts for up to 35% of new pediatric cases each year; brain and spinal tumours, the second most common form of cancer, account for 17%; while neuroblastoma, the most prevalent solid tumour that occurs outside of the brain in children under age five, affects one in every 6,000 to 7,000 children in North America.