Consuming a folate-rich diet and reducing alcohol consumption may help cut the risk of colorectal cancer for those who have a family history of the disease, according to the results of a large study from Harvard University. Folate is a B vitamin found in fruit and vegetables and legumes. It can also be taken in supplement form (folic acid) in a multivitamin supplement or as a single folic acid pill.
The results of this study indicate that individuals with a family history of colon cancer who use multivitamin supplements for more than 5 years may decrease their risk of colon cancer by almost 50%. People with a parent, brother or sister with colon cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease compared with those without a family history of the disease.
In the study, researchers looked at the risk of colon cancer in more than 88,000 women aged 30 to 55 taking part in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study. Every 2 years for 16 years, the women answered questions about diet, weight, smoking habits and alcohol consumption and had an examination of the colon.
Women with a family history of colorectal cancer who consumed more than 400 micrograms of folate each day were 52% less likely to develop colorectal cancer than women who consumed less than 200 micrograms a day. And women without a family history of the disease, consuming the same amount of folate had their risk reduced by 19%.
In addition, the investigators also found that "moderate to heavy" alcohol consumption--more than the equivalent of two glass of wine a day--increased the risk associated with a family history of colorectal cancer.
The results suggest that higher intakes of folate, regular use of multivitamins containing folate, and avoidance of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption may diminish the excess risk of colon cancer associated with a family history of the disease.
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