Dietary folates and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies

A. Tavani, S. Malerba, C. Pelucchi, L. Dal maso, A. Zucchetto, D. Serraino, F. Levi, M. Montella, S. Franceschi, A. Zambon, C. La vecchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Folate deficiency leads to DNA damage and inadequate repair, caused by a decreased synthesis of thymidylate and purines. We analyzed the relationship between dietary folate intake and the risk of several cancers. Patients and methods: The study is based on a network of case-control studies conducted in Italy and Switzerland in 1991-2009. The odds ratios (ORs) for dietary folate intake were estimated by multiple logistic regression models, adjusted for major identified confounding factors. Results: For a few cancer sites, we found a significant inverse relation, with ORs for an increment of 100 μg/day of dietary folate of 0.65 for oropharyngeal (1467 cases), 0.58 for esophageal (505 cases), 0.83 for colorectal (2390 cases), 0.72 for pancreatic (326 cases), 0.67 for laryngeal (851 cases) and 0.87 for breast (3034 cases) cancers. The risk estimates were below unity, although not significantly, for cancers of the endometrium (OR = 0.87, 454 cases), ovary (OR = 0.86, 1031 cases), prostate (OR = 0.91, 1468 cases) and kidney (OR = 0.88, 767 cases), and was 1.00 for stomach cancer (230 cases). No material heterogeneity was found in strata of sex, age, smoking and alcohol drinking. Conclusions: Our data support a real inverse association of dietary folate intake with the risk of several common cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermds212
Pages (from-to)2737-2742
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Cancer risk
  • Case-control study
  • Diet
  • Folates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Hematology

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