Ovarian Cancer and Folic Acid.




Journal of the National Cancer Institiute

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Consumer Data: Folic Acid
Professional Data: Folic Acid


Folic acid is a member of the water-soluble B vitamin group. Isolated in 1946 from spinach leaves, its name comes from folium, the Latin word for leaf. In the body, folic acid is converted to a more biologically active form. Folic acid occurs in a wide variety of foods. Best sources include dark green leafy vegetables, brewer's yeast, liver and eggs. Other good sources are beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, orange juice, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, kidney and lima beans, wheat germ, and whole grain cereals and breads. The body's "friendly" intestinal bacteria also produce folic acid.

Like vitamin B12, folic acid is necessary for the production of both DNA and RNA. It is therefore essential for proper cellular division and the transmission of the genetic code to all newly formed cells. It is also essential for the health of red blood cells and the production of proteins and various amino acids. Also, of importance to women, folic acid may treat cervical dysplasia and decrease the necessity of hysterectomies.

Folic acid may have yet another function in women’s health. A recent study suggested that higher intakes of folic acid might reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer. With data taken from the Swedish Mammography Cohort study, researchers collected information on over 61,000 women who were cancer-free at baseline. These women completed a food-frequency questionnaire. After at least 10 years of follow-up, 266 cases of ovarian cancer were reported. The researchers found that those women who had high intakes of folic acid had lower incidences of ovarian cancer. This association was greater in women who consumed two alcohol drinks per week. This study showed that folic acid may reduce the frequency of ovarian cancer especially among women who consume alcoholic beverages.1


1. Larsson SC, et al. Dietary Folate Intake and Incidence of Ovarian Cancer: The Swedish Mammography Cohort. J Natl Cancer Instit. March 2004;96(5):396-402.