Study Finds Association Between Folate Intake and Risk of Cutaneous Melanoma

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Previous studies have indicated that folate can modify the risk of various cancers, but its impact on melanoma is unknown.
Previous studies have indicated that folate can modify the risk of various cancers, but its impact on melanoma is unknown.

A higher intake of folate from food may increase the risk of cutaneous melanoma, according to study results published in Cancer Epidemiology

Disruption of one-carbon metabolism may result in carcinogenesis. Previous epidemiologic studies have demonstrated that folate — a water-soluble B vitamin that behaves as a donor in the one-carbon metabolism pathway — can modify the risk of various cancers and contribute to tumor growth, but its impact on melanoma is unknown. 

For this study, researchers accessed the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) to evaluate the health outcomes of 75,311 female and 48,523 male participants. The intake of nutrients involved in one-carbon metabolism (folate, vitamins B6 and B12, methionine, choline, betaine) was assessed using the food frequency and self-reported supplement use questionnaires at baseline and every 2 years. 

After 24 to 26 years of follow-up, a total of 1328 melanoma cases were documented. 

Analyses showed that higher folate intake from food only, but not total folate, significantly increased the risk of melanoma (P=.001) compared with the lowest intake. The effect was found to be significant among men but was diminished among women. 

Increased intake of the other evaluated nutrients was not associated with increased melanoma risk, but there was a positive trend observed with increased vitamin B6 from food only. 

Results of the study suggest that high folate intake from food may increase the risk of melanoma, but the authors concluded that “since other factors related to dietary folate intake may account for the observed association, our findings warrant further investigation.”


Dhana A, Yen H, Li T, Holmes MD, Qureshi AA, Cho E. Intake of folate and other nutrients related to one-carbon metabolism and risk of cutaneous melanoma among US women and men[published online July 7, 2018]. Cancer Epidemiol. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2018.06.006

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