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Cancer Res. 1992 Sep 15;52(18):5002-6.

Folate deficiency enhances the development of colonic neoplasia in dimethylhydrazine-treated rats.

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  • 1U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.


In patients with ulcerative colitis, epidemiological work has suggested an association between low folate status and an increased risk of colonic neoplasia. The aim of the present study was to determine if experimental folate deficiency increases the likelihood of developing neoplasia in rats treated with the carcinogen dimethylhydrazine. Weanling male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed with an amino acid-defined diet containing either 8 or 0 mg/kg folic acid. After 5 weeks of defined diet, weekly s.c. injections of dimethylhydrazine (20 mg/kg) were administered to both groups. Serum, whole blood, liver, and colonic folate concentrations at the time of sacrifice were significantly lower in folate-depleted animals (P less than 0.001). There were significant differences in the incidence of colonic neoplasia between the two groups after 20 weeks of dimethylhydrazine exposure: folate-deficient rats had a greater incidence of dysplasia (6 of 7 versus 2 of 7 animals; P less than 0.05) and carcinoma (6 of 7 versus 1 of 7 animals; P less than 0.01). Furthermore, a significantly greater proportion of folate-replete rats than folate-deficient rats were free of neoplastic lesions (5 of 7 versus 0 of 7 animals; P less than 0.05). These results suggest that, in this animal model, folate deficiency increases the risk of malignancy when there is an underlying predisposition to colorectal cancer.

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