Moms who take folic acid supplements in the period leading up to pregnancy can reduce the risk of their baby developing a brain tumour by half during childhood.
This was discovered after a five year study by the Australian Childhood Brain Tumour Consortium (Aus-CBT).
The study, which has been published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, stands out as the largest and most comprehensive research performed in the country so far on this topic.
According to Dr Milne, “we were specifically targeting Folic Acid intake following from a similar national study on childhood leukaemia and building on the local finding that taking FA can reduce its risk.”
Little is known
“Indeed it was Folic Acid that appeared to be responsible for a [negative diagnosis] association, but it does not harm if it is taken in combination with other micronutrients,” says Milne.
Little is known about the risk factors for CBT and rare causes like brain irradiation and genetics account for very few cases.
“So we set out to look at a wide range of nutritional factors, environment exposures and genetic influences and how they might interact,” adds Milne.
Folate is required for reliable DNA synthesis and repair and according to Milne, “there are lots of points where a folate deficiency can lead to malignant cell transformation and disease.”
Among other potential causes, folate deficiency is now thought to be a contributing factor to CBT development.
Folic Acid before pregnancy
The timing of effective Folic Acid intake before rather than after conception highlights the importance of healthy germ cells to produce a healthy embryo.
“The message to those planning a pregnancy is supportive of taking FA supplementation.”
“The advice is not new; it already stands for the prevention of neural tube defects and it may well be that there are added benefits for CBT.”