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Carcinogenesis. 2000 Dec;21(12):2261-5.

Folate deficiency reduces the development of colorectal cancer in rats.

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CSIRO, Health Sciences and Nutrition, PO Box 10041 Gouger Street, Adelaide BC, South Australia 5000, Australia.


Alterations in folate status may play an important role in carcinogenesis. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a diminished folate status on azoxymethane (AOM)-induced intestinal tumours in Sprague-Dawley rats. A total of 125 weanling male rats were divided into five equal groups and fed semi-purified diets containing either 8 mg/kg folate or no folate. After 4 weeks on experimental diets, all animals received three weekly subcutaneous injections of AOM at a dose rate of 15 mg/kg bodyweight. The animals were necropsied after 26 weeks. Rats with a diminished folate status, evident by significantly reduced blood and colonic folate concentrations and elevated plasma homocysteine levels, had significantly (P < 0.01) lower incidence and number of small intestinal and colonic tumours compared with rats displaying an adequate folate status. There was a significant decrease in the incidence of colonic adenocarcinomas (P < 0.01) and size of colonic tumours observed in the rats displaying a diminished folate status. This study shows that a diminished folate status was associated with a decrease in the development of AOM-induced colorectal cancers. The decrease in risk may be attributed to the known role of folate in cell multiplication.

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