Vitamins During Pregnancy Decrease Childhood Cancer Risk

Vitamins During Pregnancy Decrease Childhood Cancer Risk

According to an early online publication in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, children of mothers who take vitamins during pregnancy have a decreased risk of pediatric brain tumors, neuroblastoma, and leukemia.

It is generally recommended that pregnant women receive vitamin supplementation during pregnancy to assure normal growth and development of the fetus. Several studies have suggested that vitamin supplementation during pregnancy can prevent birth defects. There have also been associations established between vitamin supplementation and the child’s risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. In addition, research has suggested that the widespread use of vitamin supplementation in pregnant women has helped decrease the incidence of childhood medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma.

In the current study, researchers from the University of Toronto conducted a literature review of materials produced between 1960 and 2005. A meta-analysis was performed of data from seven studies to determine the relationship between maternal vitamin intake and childhood cancer incidence. All vitamins evaluated included folic acid. The following comparisons were made between children of women who received vitamin supplements containing folic acid during pregnancy and those who did not:

  • There was a 36% reduction for pediatric leukemia; an 18% reduction in pediatric brain tumors; and a 47% reduction in neuroblastoma in children of women taking vitamin supplements.
  • It was estimated that, in the U.S., vitamin supplementation during pregnancy could prevent 900 cases of pediatric leukemia and 300–400 cases of pediatric brain tumors annually.

These authors stated that it was not know specifically which vitamins were responsible for these effects. They did speculate, however, that folic acid may be responsible for this decreased risk pediatric brain tumors, neuroblastoma, and leukemia. Women who are pregnant may wish to speak with their physician regarding prenatal vitamin supplementation.

Reference: Goh YI, Bollano E, Einarson TR, et al. Prenatal multivitamin supplementation and rates of pediatric cancers: A meta-analysis. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics [early online publication]. February 21, 2007. DOI: doi:10.1038/sj.clpt.6100100.

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