The role of folic acid in carcinogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer

Document Type : Review article


1 Department of laboratory sciences, Faculty of Para medicine, Tabriz University of medical sciences, Tabriz, Iran

2 Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

3 Islamic Azad University of Tabriz Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Tabriz, Iran

4 Department of Clinical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran

5 Rofeydeh Rehabilitation Hospital, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Science (USWR), Tehran, Iran

6 Islamic Azad University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran


Introduction: Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the water-soluble B vitamins which its derivatives are involved in many metabolic reactions as cofactor, that are mostly contributed in cell growth. Regarding the role of derived cofactors from this vitamin in reactions such as methylation, production of thymidine and purines; seems that there is a relationship between this vitamin and cancer.
Methods: We searched Medline/Pubmed, Scopus, Embase and Web of Science (2000-2017) using term folic acid, carcinogenesis, diagnose and treatment. Our focused was on the articles published within the past 5 years and type of study in culture media, animal models and clinical trials were in our favor.
Results: Candidate mechanisms in carcinogenesis for folic acid include 1: changes in DNA and RNA methylation 2: Damage to the integrity and stability of DNA 3: disruption in repair system of DNA.
Conclusion: Folic acid in carcinogenesis acts as a double-edged sword. The activity type of folic acid depends on the physiological conditions, dosage of the vitamin, age, individual genotypes, target tissues and stage of the disease in patients. High growth rate of cancer cells leads to increase in cell requests of the vitamin, and on the other hand the cells enhance the number of receptors improving the vitamin absorption. Therefore, increasing number of cell surface receptors, it can be applied for non-invasive diagnosis and target therapy.


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