Fortification with folic acid may reduce cancer risk among children

August 6, 2012

According to a new US study, folic acid fortification could help to reduce the incidence of some of the most common types of kidney and brain cancers suffered by children.

To examine the incidence of childhood cancer before and after folic acid fortification became mandated in the USA, the study analyzed data from National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER), which have collected information on cancer cases from various areas of the US since 1973 (1). The study followed 8,829 children from birth to age four, who were diagnosed with cancer. The results showed that the incidence of certain childhood cancers has decreased since folic acid fortification was introduced in the USA in 1998.

The researchers commented that one concern countries face when deciding whether or not to fortify foods to reduce neural tube defects among newborns is the possibility that fortification may cause unintended harm, such as causing new cancers or pre-cancerous lesions. They pointed out that the new findings showed that folic acid fortification does not appear to be increasing rates of childhood cancers, but seem to reduce cancer risk. Further research would be needed before the results can be confirmed.

Fortification of staple foods with folic acid began in the USA in 1998; since then over 50 countries around the world have followed suit in adopting a fortification strategy.


  1. Linabery, A. M. et al. Childhood Cancer Incidence Trends in Association With US Folic Acid Fortification (1986–2008). Pediatrics. Published online May 2012.