Aim: To determine whether folic acid supplementation will reduce the recurrence of colorectal adenomas, the precursors of colorectal cancer, we performed a double-blind placebo-controlled trial in patients with adenomatous polyps.
Methods: In the current double-blind, placebo-controlled trial at this VA Medical Center, patients with colorectal adenomas were randomly assigned to receive either a daily 5 mg dose of folic acid or a matched identical placebo for 3 years. All polyps were removed at baseline colonoscopy and each patient had a follow up colonoscopy at 3 years. The primary endpoint was a reduction in the number of recurrent adenomas at 3 years.
Results: Of 137 subjects, who were eligible after confirmation of polyp histology and run-in period to conform compliance, 94 completed the study; 49 in folic acid group and 45 in placebo group. Recurrence of adenomas at 3-year was compared between the two groups. The mean number of recurrent polyps at 3-year was 0.36 (SD, 0.69) for folic acid treated patients compared to 0.82 (SD, 1.17) for placebo treated subjects, resulting in a 3-fold increase in polyp recurrence in the placebo group. Patients below 70 years of age and those with left-sided colonic adenomas or advanced adenomas responded better to folic acid supplementation.
Conclusion: High dose folic acid supplementation is associated with a significant reduction in the recurrence of colonic adenomas suggesting that folic acid may be an effective chemopreventive agent for colorectal neoplasia.