SickKids researchers find prenatal multivitamins reduces risk of childhood cancers

TORONTO, Feb. 21 /CNW/ - Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children
(SickKids) have found that taking prenatal multivitamins fortified with folic
acid can reduce the risk of three common childhood cancers: leukemia, brain
tumours and neuroblastoma. This research was published online on February 21,
2007, in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics.

"Our research indicates that a large proportion of several early
childhood cancers can be prevented by taking a prenatal multivitamin before
and during pregnancy," said Dr. Gideon Koren, the study's principal
investigator, director of the Motherisk Program at SickKids, a senior
scientist in the SickKids Research Institute and a professor of Paediatrics,
Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Medicine and Medical Genetics at the University of
Toronto. "This affordable approach could contribute to a significant reduction
in the number of childhood cancer cases diagnosed each year, which has huge
implications for society at large."

The study examined the findings of seven articles that met the inclusion
criteria and found that prenatal supplementation of multivitamins containing
folic acid is associated with a 47 per cent protective effect for
neuroblastoma, 39 per cent for leukemia and 27 per cent protective effect for
brain tumours. While other studies have investigated the effect of prenatal
vitamins on rates of paediatric tumours, this is the first systematic review
and meta-analysis of prenatal multivitamin use before and during early
pregnancy and its protective effect for several paediatric cancers.

Leukemia, the most common childhood cancer, accounts for 25 to 35 per
cent of new paediatric cases each year. Brain and spinal tumours, the second
most common form of cancer, accounts for 17 per cent of new paediatric cancer
cases each year, and neuroblastoma, the most prevalent solid tumour that
occurs outside of the brain in children under the age of five, affects one in
every 6,000 to 7,000 children in North America.

Additional research is required to determine which components of a
prenatal multivitamin provide protective effect for paediatric cancers and
whether any of the protective effects can be attributed to folic acid. A
previous study by Motherisk found that prenatal multivitamins fortified with
folic acid can reduce the risk of a wide range of serious congenital defects.
Women who are considering pregnancy are generally advised to supplement with
folic acid but findings of these studies suggest that supplementation with a
multivitamin containing folic acid may be a preferred method.

Other members of the research team included Ingrid Goh, Tom Einarson, and
Eneka Bollano, all from SickKids.

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
and the Research Leadership for Better Pharmacotherapy during Pregnancy and
Lactation. The research also received funding from Duchesnay Inc., which did
not have a prenatal vitamin on the market during the time covered by this

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University
of Toronto, is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest
centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. As innovators
in child health, SickKids improves the health of children by integrating care,
research and teaching. Our mission is to provide the best in complex and
specialized care by creating scientific and clinical advancements, sharing our
knowledge and expertise and championing the development of an accessible,
comprehensive and sustainable child health system. For more information,
please visit SickKids is committed to healthier children for
a better world.

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