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Treatment With Folic Acid And B Vitamins Has Little Effect On Multiple Myeloma Risk Among Women

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Published: Nov 16, 2008 2:01 am

Folic acid (vitamin B9), vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 are thought to play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.

However, researchers at Harvard Medical School recently showed women who have a high risk of heart disease did not improve their risk of developing cancers, such as multiple myeloma, after taking the vitamins.

The study participants received a daily combination of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 or placebo for more than 7 years between April 1998 and July 2005. During that time, the researchers recorded any new instances of breast or invasive cancers.

Invasive cancers are cancers that have spread beyond the area where they started.

Of the 5,442 women enrolled in the study, 379 developed an invasive cancer (187 in the group taking vitamins and 192 in the placebo group).  Among the women who developed an invasive cancer, seven developed multiple myeloma (five vitamin users and two placebo users). 

Although the women taking vitamins had a slightly higher incidence of multiple myeloma than the placebo group, the difference was not determined to be statistically significant.  Within the population of women studied, taking the vitamins did not lower (or raise) the risk of any of the cancers studied.

Interestingly, however, the scientists found age might play a role in vitamin-treatment. The researchers found that the risk of breast cancer and invasive cancers was significantly reduced among women who were 65 years and older.  Treatment lowered the risk of developing cancer by 25% for invasive cancers and 38% for breast cancer in women who were 65 and older.  This protective effect was not seen for women who were 45-64 years old.  According to the researchers, these results “may have public health significance because the incidence rates of cancer are high in elderly,” however further study is needed.

This journal article can be found in the November issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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