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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003 Oct;12(10):963-9.

Association between low dietary folate intake and suboptimal cellular DNA repair capacity.

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Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Both reduced DNA repair capacity (DRC) and folate deficiency are associated with increased cancer risk. Furthermore, folate is involved in DNA repair through de novo DNA synthesis and methylation. To determine whether low dietary folate intake is associated with low cellular DRC in humans, we assessed total dietary folate intake using a food frequency questionnaire in 559 non-Hispanic white cancer-free subjects enrolled from 1995 through 2001 as controls for ongoing molecular epidemiological studies from among enrollees in a community-based multispecialty physician practice in the Houston metropolitan area. We assessed cellular DRC using the host-cell reactivation assay that measures nucleotide-excision repair capacity in peripheral blood lymphocytes. The distribution of DRC was approximately normal in this study population. In univariate analysis, subjects in the lowest tertile of total dietary folate intake (<170 microg/1000 kcal/day) exhibited a significant reduction (-18%) in DRC compared with those in the upper tertile (>225 microg/1000 kcal/day; P < 0.001). In multivariate linear regression analysis, calorie-adjusted total folate intake remained an independent predictor of DRC (P < 0.001). Additional stratification analysis indicated that this association was more pronounced in those who did not use folate supplementation (n = 230; P < 0.001) compared with those who did (n = 329; P = 0.177). Our findings suggest that low dietary folate intake is associated with suboptimal cellular DRC. Once replicated by other investigators, this finding has public health implications by reinforcing the need for folate supplementation or dietary modification for the at-risk population.

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