Folate and Its Impact on Cancer Risk

Curr Nutr Rep. 2018 Sep;7(3):70-84. doi: 10.1007/s13668-018-0237-y.


Purpose of review: Research has evaluated the potential impact of folate on cancer risk with conflicting findings. Studies have demonstrated increased risk, no effect, and decreased risk. This review summarizes findings of mixed results between folate intake, serum levels, gene polymorphisms, and cancer risk based on meta-analyses from the past five years.

Recent finding: Low or deficient folate status is associated with increased risk of many cancers. Folic acid supplementation and higher serum levels are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer. Gene polymorphisms may impact risk in certain ethnic groups. Folate has been studied extensively due to its role in methylation and nucleotide synthesis. Further prospective studies are needed to clarify optimal levels for nutrient remediation and risk reduction in those at risk, as well as elucidate the association between high intake, high serum levels, and prostate cancer risk. Future considerations for cancer risk may include gene interactions with nutrients and environmental factors.

Keywords: Cancer risk; Folate; Folate deficiency; Folate supplementation; Folic acid; MTHFR; SHMT; Serum folate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Risk Factors


  • Folic Acid