Objectives: Dietary folate intake is inversely associated with the risk of colorectal cancer. This study investigated the effect of folate supplementation on genomic DNA methylation and DNA strand breaks in exons 5-8 of the p53 gene of the colonic mucosa, two provisional biomarkers of colon cancer.
Methods: Twenty subjects with adenomas were randomized to receive either folate (5 mg/day) or placebo for 1 yr after polypectomy. At baseline, 6 months and 1 yr, systemic and colonic measures of folate status were determined, as were the biomarkers mentioned earlier.
Results: Folate supplementation increased serum, red blood cell and colonic mucosal folate concentrations (p < 0.02). Folate supplementation also increased the extent of genomic DNA methylation at 6 months and 1 yr (p = 0.001), whereas placebo administration was associated with an increase in the extent of genomic DNA methylation only at 1 yr. Similarly, folate supplementation decreased the extent of p53 strand breaks in exons 5-8 at 6 months and 1 yr (p < 0.02), whereas placebo administration was associated with a decrease in the extent of p53 strand breaks only at 1 yr.
Conclusions: Both of these provisional biomarkers of colon cancer underwent accelerated improvement at 6 months with folate supplementation. However, these markers also improved with placebo at 1 yr. Therefore, potential confounding factors that seem to modulate these biomarkers need to be identified and corrected in order for these markers to serve as suitable surrogate endpoints in folate chemoprevention trials.