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Folic Acid Improves Survival after Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is among the most common forms of cancer in women. It’s estimated that one in eight women in the United States (about 12 percent) will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.

If you’ve been treated for breast cancer or know someone who has, taking the B vitamin folic acid may help improve chances of survival according to new research.

Higher Folic Acid Levels, Lower Mortality Rate

The study, which was published in Nutrition and Cancer, was a joint effort between California State University, the University of California, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers selected 471 postmenopausal women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 1995 and examined stored plasma samples to determine the sum total of folic acid.

Researchers found that among the top 25 percent levels of folic acid, the risk of mortality due to breast cancer had dropped a whopping 59 percent compared to those whose levels were among the lowest 25 percent. The study is unique because it involved not just information gathered from a standard dietary questionnaire, but also plasma; an important detail since blood content often goes unexamined in supplement studies.

Folic Acid Sources

The recommended amount of B vitamin folic acid is around 400 micrograms through a combination of dietary and supplemental sources. The naturally created form, called folate, is found in foods such as dark leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, lentils, avocado, okra, and Brussels sprouts. Folic acid, which is the synthetically created form, can be taken through supplements. Both are important as the body processes each one differently.

If you are going through perimenopause or menopause now, it may be a good idea to increase and optimize your folic acid intake whether or not you have had breast cancer, as it may have preventative benefits. Research, although promising, is still young and needs more time before the full extent of the relationship between folic acid and breast cancer comes to light.

In the accompanying audio segment, Dr. Mike Smith shares how folic acid can improve your survival rate if you've had breast cancer.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.