Folic Acid May Hike, Not Cut, Colon Polyp Risk

EXCLUSIVE: Marcheline Bertrand, French actress and mother of Angelina Jolie, has died of cancer

Don’t miss these Health stories Splash News What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says For those who got the real vitamin, the daily dose was 1 milligram, more than double the recommended daily allowance for folic acid. All participants consumed even more folic acid than the researchers had in mind because the Food and Drug Administration began requiring enriched grains to be fortified with folic acid in 1998, several years after the study began. The FDA adopted the fortification policy to prevent birth defects, and some health advocates want even higher levels of folic acid in foods. But fortification may have unintended effects on people at risk of cancer, said Dr. Joel Mason, an expert on folate and cancer prevention at Tufts University in Boston who was not involved in the new study. Right now it would not be appropriate to blindly go forth and further increase the levels of folic acid without better understanding the potential risks, Mason said. And whether we continue folic acid fortification should be an open debate over the next few years. Mason said he believes folic acid someday may earn a role in cancer prevention, perhaps at smaller doses than given in the study. No cancer rate difference Cancer patients should discuss taking vitamins with their doctors, and anyone over 50 who takes vitamins should have a colorectal screening test, said Cornelia Ulrich of Seattles Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, who co-wrote an accompanying editorial. Older individuals often have abnormalities in the colon and folic acid may promote their growth, Ulrich said. Researchers did not see any real difference in rates of colon cancer, just in the precancerous colon growths. Some of the participants also took aspirin as part of the study. The aspirin seemed to protect the colon against the harms of folic acid. The study was not designed to look at prostate cancer, but more men who took folic acid developed prostate cancer than did the other men (7.3 percent vs. 2.8 percent). Grants from the National Institutes of Health funded the study.

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Rectal Cancer on the Rise in Young People

Researchers led by Joshua Meyer, MD, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registry to compare rectal cancer and colon cancer trends. Their findings were released online today and will appear in the Sept. 15 issue of Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, often occurring among older people. Overall, there are nearly 103,000 new cases diagnosed ever year. Rectal cancer is not considered common among young people, but underestimating the incidence of the disease could lead to missed diagnoses among young people and delayed treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, there are 39,670 new cases of rectal cancer each year; 22,620 in men and 17,050 in women. Slideshow: Colorectal Cancer Overview Rectal Cancer on the Rise Meyer and his colleagues looked at data about rectal cancer in patients who were younger than 40 between 1973 and 2005. They calculated the change in incidence over time for colon and rectal cancers. Colon and rectal cancer rates were low overall during the study period, at 1.11 cases and 0.42 cases per 100,000, respectively. However, the incidence of rectal cancer increased among young people — independently of race or sex — between 1984 and 2005. Why rectal cancer is increasing and not colon cancer is not well understood, the authors say. Colonoscopy, a screening tool used to examine the colorectal area for tumors and abnormal growths, may have helped improve the detection of cancer earlier in younger people, they say. However, it is not clear if there are different environmental or genetic factors at play among the younger population. We suggest that in young people presenting with rectal bleeding or other common signs of rectal cancer, endoscopic evaluation should be considered in order to rule out a malignancy, Meyer says.

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