Can Moms-To-Be Help Prevent Childhood Cancers?

Childhood brain tumor risk may be decreased with maternal folic acid intake

(RxWiki News) The lifestyle habits of moms-to-be affect the health of their babies. This fact is coming into laser focus these days. A common vitamin supplement may be helpful in warding off childhood cancers.

Taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy may lower the baby’s risks of developing childhood brain tumors.

"Ask your doctor about vitamin supplements"

A group of Australian researchers uncovered this association after studying mothers and their children at 10 pediatric cancer centers.

The study took place between 2005 and 2011 with the goal of finding if maternal folic acid and other supplement offered their children protection from brain tumors.

According to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, about 4,200 kids are diagnosed with childhood brain tumors (CBT), which behave differently than adult tumors.

Previous studies regarding vitamin supplementation during pregnancy and CBT risks have been mixed.

Folate is important in forming the baby’s brain cells and central nervous system. Having a low folate level may interrupt this development and could open central nervous system cells to DNA damage. If this damage isn’t fully or properly repaired, mutations can occur that can lead to cancer.

For this study, mothers of 327 children with CBTs and the moms of 867 healthy children told researchers about their supplement use before and during pregnancy. This was detailed information that included the brand name, dosage and how often the supplements were taken.

Among the women in the study, 29 percent said they took no folic acid, and nearly 34 percent reported taking folic acid without iron, B vitamins or vitamin C. The use of supplements during pregnancy was minimal among these women.

After analyzing the data and establishing odds ratios, the researchers discovered that moms-to-be taking folic acid did offer protection for their unborn children.

The authors wrote, “We conclude that folic acid supplements before and in early pregnancy may protect against CBT. Potential underlying mechanisms should be further investigated, particularly for individual CBT subtypes as the mechanisms may well differ.”

This research was published in November issues of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

This study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
November 7, 2012