Scientists in Rome, Italy, have discovered that folic acid, the supplement commonly used by pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects in their babies, can also prevent and even treat cancer of the larynx.
They studied 43 patients with pre-cancerous lesions called leucoplakia and gave them all folic acid supplements, three times a day for six months. A very encouraging 44 percent of patients showed a 50 percent reduction in the size of their lesions and for 28 percent (12 out of 43 people), their pre-cancerous lesions disappeared altogether! For a further 28 percent, the supplement had no effect.
Athough the researchers say that using folic acid has a lower success rate than some of the drugs that are being studied to treat this form of cancer, it is appealing because it has no moderate or severe side-effects, unlike the drug therapy, which makes it a safer alternative.
Folic acid is responsible for helping to make red blood cells and supporting a healthy neurological system. It prevents conditions like spina bifida from occuring in developing unborn babies. Some suggest it has anti-aging properties which may explain why people who eat lots of green vegetables have better skin and often look younger than those who don't.
Lack of folic acid can cause many illnesses including heart disease and cancer and despite it being readily available in foods in its natural form - folate - it is the most common nutritional deficency in the USA.
According to the American Cancer Society, human and animal studies have demonstated a link between folate deficency and cancer, and they wrote, 'This study provides data to support the hypothesis that folate insufficiency is a risk factor for cancer progression.'
Despite this, researchers concluded that the supplements were not effective enough to be used as a chemotherapy. With such a small number of patients, it would be difficult to draw firm conclusions. Further research is needed to confirm the link.
If you'd like to try the folic acid prevention plan, you can find sources of folate in:
Bananas, oranges and strawberries
Breakfast cereals and some bread