Prostate cancer: Dr Hilary outlines signs and symptoms
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Although some factors for developing cancer are non-negotiable, including genetics, others are within your hands. A healthy diet is a no-brainer when it comes to the condition and supplements might seem just as good. However, a meta-analysis, published in the British Medical Journal, warned that folic acid isn’t that black and white.
Based on a meta-analysis of 10 randomised controlled trials, the study showed a borderline significant increase in frequency of overall cancer in those who took a folic acid supplement.
Supplementation of this kind was shown to increase the frequency of cancer, with the emphasis on prostate cancer.
In case you’re not aware, folic acid is the synthetic version of vitamin B9, also known as folate.
From making healthy red blood cells to reducing the side effects of the drug called methotrexate, folic acid offers various benefits.
However, the British Medical Journal warned that its supplement version might potentially increase your cancer risk.
Looking at 10 randomised controlled trials, the meta-analysis found a “relative risk” of developing cancer after taking folic acid supplements.
They compared the data from those on the products to a control group to receive the result.
Meta-analyses of six randomised controlled trials also reported a relative risk of prostate cancer among men receiving folic acid.
“No significant difference in cancer incidence was shown between groups receiving folic acid and placebo/control group, for any other cancer type,” the study noted.
The researchers concluded that folic acid is associated with a borderline significant increase in the frequency of overall cancer.
“Prostate cancer was the only cancer type found to be increased after folic acid supplementation,” they added.
However, this isn’t the only body of research underlying this potential risk.
Another study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggested that daily supplementation with one mg of folic acid was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer as well.
“These findings highlight the potentially complex role of folate in prostate carcinogenesis,” the research team said.
However, they also noted that based on the small number of prostate cancers in the study, the estimates need to be interpreted “with caution”.
The NHS states that you’re “unlikely” to experience general side effects on folic acid.
But some people might struggle with the feelings of sickness, loss of appetite, getting wind or feeling bloated.
“These side effects are usually mild and do not last long,” it adds.
Apart from supplements, folic acid can be also found in a variety of foods.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health lists these options as potential sources:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (turnip greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli)
- Sunflower seeds
- Fresh fruits, fruit juices
- Whole grains
- Fortified foods.
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