The nutritional supplement associated with a 24% increased incidence of prostate cancer

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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Cancer is ferocious: once cells become cancerous, they tend to spread rapidly. This undermines the effectiveness of treatments, which in turn leads to poor survival outcomes. Finding ways to mitigate the threat in the first place is therefore best.

Unfortunately, anyone can develop cancer, but research has found some concerning risk factors.

Growing evidence has found an association between folic acid supplementation and prostate cancer, although the evidence is conflicting.

Indeed, “the role of folate, a water-soluble B-vitamin, in cancer development and progression remains highly controversial”, explains researchers in a review of the literature published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Folate is a B vitamin found in many foods. The man made form of folate is called folic acid.

“Most randomised clinical trials have generally shown a null effect of folic acid supplementation on cancer biomarkers,” notes the researchers in the review.

However, they did cite the concerning findings of a meta-analysis of six clinical trials published in the journal BMJ Open.

The meta-analysis showed a 24 percent increase in prostate cancer incidence associated with folic acid supplementation.

However, the link is still worth probing.

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For example, a systematic review published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases suggests one possible mechanism that might account for this association.

The review found “high blood folate levels are associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer”.

Indeed, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) advises staying within the recommendations if you do take folic acid supplements.

“If you’re taking folic acid supplements, it’s important not to take too much as this could be harmful,” warns the DHSC.

Taking 1mg or less a day of folic acid supplements is unlikely to cause any harm, says the health body.

According to the NHS, most people should be able to get the amount of folate they need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

But if you’re pregnant, trying for a baby, or could get pregnant, it’s recommended that you take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement daily until you’re 12 weeks pregnant, notes the health body.

Folate is found in small amounts in many foods.

Good sources include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as cabbage, kale, spring greens and Spinach
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas and kidney beans
  • Liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)
  • Breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid.

Prostate cancer – symptoms to spot

Prostate cancer usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs for many years.

Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra).

When this happens, you may notice things like:

  • An increased need to pee
  • Straining while you pee
  • A feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied.

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