Intakes of dietary folate and other B vitamins are associated with risk of developing lesions in the oesophagus, according to FINBAR study group

A new study by the FINBAR study group, published ahead of print in the Journal of Nutrition, finds an association between intakes of dietary folate, and other B vitamins, and chances of developing a particular form of cancer of the oesophagus.

The incidence of adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus has been rising for the past decade in many developed countries.

The FINBAR study group, of which Dr Sharp is a collaborator, investigated associations between dietary intakes of the B vitamin folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and riboflavin and risk of developing oesophageal adenocarcinomas, and two conditions that may be precursors to this - Barrett's oesophagus and reflux oesophagitis. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, some fruits, legumes and liver. It has been implicated as having a role in several different forms of cancer.

Patients with the three conditions, and unaffected controls, were recruited in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. They completed detailed interviews about their usual diet. The major finding of the study was that risks of developing oeophageal adenocarcinoma, Barrett’s oesophagus and reflux oesophagitis were significantly higher in people with lower folate intakes. Similar associations were seen for vitamin B6, while higher intake of vitamin B12 was associated with higher risk of developing cancer. Metabolism of folate can be affected by smoking and alcohol, and the study also found that current smokers who had low folate intakes were at particularly high risk of developing cancer.   

Since diet is potentially modifiable, if the results of this study are confirmed elsewhere, the findings could inform development of prevention strategies for cancer of the oesophagus.

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