The recently publicised results have shown that the risk for colon cancer is increased by about 30% in those who drink more than 24 gr. alcohol daily (a little over one pint of beer), regardless if the alcohol in question is wine, beer, or alcohol in another form. But this risk seems to be eliminated by the B vitamin, folic acid.
Earlier a relationship was found between alcohol and the risk of breast cancer in women, but this also seems to be reduced by folic acid.
Similarly, it is believed to be effective against ovarian cancer. Last March a Swedish study on this was publicised: Among the 66,000 women who participated, the risk of ovarian cancer was reduced by more than 75% in the group which received the highest doses of folic acid, even though they drank more than 24 gr. alcohol daily.
Folic acid is a B vitamin which is chiefly found in green plants and liver. It is best known for its ability to prevent spina bifida in newborns, which is the most common severe birth defect. The frequency of spina bifida has fallen in the United States after 1996, when it became a requirement to enrich flour with the vitamin. Folic acid deficiency is believed to be very widespread. A supplement of 400 micrograms daily is believed to be appropriate as prevention.
- Larsson SC, Giovannucci E, Wolk A. Dietary folate intake and incidence of ovarian cancer: The Swedish Mammography Cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004 Mar 3;96(5):396-402.
- Eunyoung Cho et al. Alcohol Intake and Colorectal Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of 8 Cohort Studies. Annals of Internal Medicine 2004;140:603-613
- Giovannucci E et al. Alcohol, low-methionine--low-folate diets, and risk of colon cancer in men. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Feb 15;87(4):265-73.