Folic Acid May Fight Throat Cancer
Early Tests Show Promise Against Laryngeal Cancer, Researchers Report
WebMD News Archive
June 12, 2006 -- The B vitamin folic acid, also called folate, is being
studied as an anticancer agent to help prevent cancerof the
Folic acid is found in dark green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach and
turnip greens), dried beans and peas (including black-eyed peas and lentils),
and foods fortified with folic acid (including enriched grain products). Folic
acid is also available from supplements.
Doctors in Italy recently studied folic acid's effects on laryngeal
leukoplakia, which are precancerous lesions in the larynx. While more tests are
needed, early results showed laryngeal leukoplakia didn't turn into cancer
while patients were taking folic acid supplements, and – in some patients – the
precancerous lesions disappeared.
The researchers included Giovanni Almadori, MD, who works at the Universita
Cattolica del Sacro Cuore's Institute of Otolaryngology in Rome. Results appear
in the early online edition of the journal Cancer.
Almadori's team had previously reported that people with laryngeal
leukoplakia tend to have lower blood levels of folic acid than people without
Folic Acid Supplements
So the researchers gave folic acid supplements to 43 adults with laryngeal
leukoplakia for six months.
The patients had lower blood levels of folic acid than people without
laryngeal leukoplakia when the study started.
European countries don't fortify grain products with folate, according to
the nonprofit European Food Information Council's web site. And the patients
hadn't taken supplements of folic acid, or the closely-related vitamin B 12, in
the previous six months.
The patients weren't heavy drinkers, but more than 80% were smokers. Smoking
and heavy alcohol use can boost the risk of laryngeal leukoplakia, the
Checking for Cancer
Every eight hours, participants took oral supplements containing five
milligrams (mg) of folic acid.
Blood levels of folic acid rose in the patients during the study. Meanwhile,
blood levels of homocysteine – an amino acid that at elevated levels has been
associated with increased risk of cancer and heart disease-- fell, the researchers report.
Doctors checked the participants' laryngeal leukoplakia every 30 days.
The participants' laryngeal leukoplakia didn't progress to cancer during the
study. In addition, 12 patients (28%) had a "complete response,"
meaning the laryngeal leukoplakia faded away, the researchers write.