Maternal Vitamin, Mineral Use Reduces Childhood Brain Cancer Risk
Women who take multivitamins before and during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children developing neuroblastoma, a type of brain tumor found almost exclusively in children, according to a study in Epidemiology (2002;13:575–80).
Neuroblastoma affects nine out of every million children under age 15 in the United States, and is the most common type of cancer in infants. Many scientists believe that neuroblastoma is the result of abnormal fetal development, because this type of cancer occurs so early in life; however, the exact cause remains unknown. Some studies suggest neuroblastoma may be caused by maternal exposure to environmental toxins, cigarette smoke, alcohol, or certain occupational exposures, but other studies have failed to show any such associations. The results of this new study are encouraging, as they suggest that mothers may be able to prevent this devastating disease from occurring in their children.
In the new study, over 1,000 mothers were questioned about their vitamin and mineral supplement use before and during pregnancy. Specific information regarding frequency and duration of use, and the amounts taken was recorded. The results showed that daily multivitamin use up to one year before conception or during any trimester of pregnancy resulted in a 30 to 40% decrease in neuroblastoma risk. This means that neuroblastoma may be prevented, even if a woman does not start taking a multivitamin until her second or third trimester. Taking a multivitamin less frequently than daily did not reduce neuroblastoma risk.
Scientists were unable to determine which nutrient or nutrients in the multivitamin was responsible for its beneficial effects, but they speculated that folic acid, which is found in many multivitamins, may play a key role in preventing neuroblastoma. Other studies have shown that folic acid may help prevent colon cancer and other types of cancer. Vitamin A, also found in some multivitamins, may help prevent brain cells from transforming into cancer cells. More research is necessary to clarify the association between nutrient intake and neuroblastoma. Women who are pregnant or considering getting pregnant should discuss nutritional supplementation with their doctor.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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