Will getting more folic acid decrease my risk for colon cancer?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

Folic acid is essential for optimum health. In this video, Dr. Robin Miller reveals the surprising results of a study involving colon cancer incidence and a high folic acid intake from food and supplements.

There isn't enough evidence to know whether taking extra folic acid (the synthetic form of the B vitamin folate) will lower your risk of colon cancer. Researchers have found that people with higher blood levels of folate have lower risk of the disease, which is a leading cause of death in the US -- but that doesn't necessarily mean that supplementing with folic acid will protect you.

Several major studies have compared people who take extra folic acid with those who don't, and have had mixed results: Some found that people taking supplements were less likely to die of colon cancer, but others concluded the pills had no effect.
One trial of over a thousand people with a history of colon polyps (which can turn into cancer) found that folic acid pills were no better than sugar pills at preventing more polyps from forming. In fact, colon cancer risk increased among people taking folic acid supplements.

There are many good reasons to be sure you get enough folate in food, or folic acid in fortified food and supplements. But, for now, preventing colon cancer isn't one of them.

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