Clin Pharmacol Ther 2007;81,5:685-91
According to the National Cancer Institute, almost 10,000 children under the age of 15 are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States. This new study suggests that taking multivitamins containing folic acid during pregnancy may help prevent the most common childhood cancers including neuroblastoma (tumors that grow in the nervous system), leukemia (cancer of the blood stream and/or bone marrow), and brain tumors.
The study's authors reviewed 61 articles to assess the effect of multivitamins taken during pregnancy on several childhood cancers and found seven studies suitable for their research. Results of their review showed that the children of women who used multivitamins containing folic acid during pregnancy had a 47% decreased risk for neuroblastoma, a 36% decreased risk for leukemia, and an 18% decreased risk for brain tumors, compared with children whose mothers did not take multivitamins during pregnancy. Based on the available data, the authors estimate that supplementing with multivitamins during pregnancy may prevent 900 cases of childhood leukemia and more than 300 cases of childhood brain tumors per year in the United States.
For decades licensed naturopaths recommended that women take folic acid during pregnancy to reduce the risk of their child having birth defects and neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy. Conventional docs during this time ignored the science and only recommended iron during pregnancy. After the research studies became too numerous to ignore, folic acid (a B vitamin) became a standard nutritional recommendation for pregnancy. In this review, the protective effects of multivitamins against the development of childhood cancers may be due to the folic acid, but it may also be due to other vitamins and minerals present in the multivitamin or to differences in diet and lifestyle between women who do and do not take multivitamins.
If a woman is pregnant or in her childbearing years she should talk with her naturopathic physician about using multivitamins as a preventive measure for general health, childhood cancers, and birth defects. Women who start taking multivitamins before or early in pregnancy may have less risk for their children developing birth defects and cancer compared with women who start taking multivitamins at a later point in their pregnancy.
"The present cumulative evidence suggests a protective effect against childhood cancers, in addition to the protective effects against birth defects," said Gideon Koren, MD, author of the study. "Hence it is logical and prudent to encourage women to use these micronutrients to decrease the likelihood of early pediatric cancer too."
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