Folic acid fortification of foods may reduce the incidence of the most common type of kidney cancer and a type of brain tumor in children. Incidence reductions were found for Wilms' tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET), a type of brain cancer.
Since 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated fortification of foods with folic acid because earlier studies show that prenatal consumption of folic acid significantly reduces the incidence of neural tube defects in babies. This study is the largest to date to show that folic acid fortification may also lower the incidence of certain types of childhood cancer in the United States.
The study, published in the current issue of Pediatrics, examined the incidence of childhood cancer pre- and post-mandated folic acid fortification. Researchers found that Wilms' tumor rates increased from 1986 to 1997 and decreased thereafter, indicating the downward change in the trend coincides exactly with folic acid fortification.
PNET rates increased from 1986 to 1993 and decreased thereafter. This change in the trend does not coincide exactly with folic acid fortification, but does coincide with the 1992 recommendation for women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
Additionally, the research showed that folic acid fortification does not appear to be increasing rates of childhood cancers.