Epidemiologic evidence indicates that prenatal vitamin supplementation reduces risk for some childhood cancers; however, a systematic evaluation of population-based childhood cancer incidence trends after fortification of enriched grain products with folic acid in the United States in 1996–1998 has not been previously reported. Here we describe temporal trends in childhood cancer incidence in association with US folic acid fortification.
Using Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program data (1986–2008), we calculated incidence rate ratios and 95% confidence intervals to compare pre- and postfortification cancer incidence rates in children aged 0 to 4 years. Incidence trends were also evaluated by using joinpoint and loess regression models.
From 1986 through 2008, 8829 children aged 0 to 4 years were diagnosed with malignancies, including 3790 and 3299 in utero during the pre- and postfortification periods, respectively. Pre- and postfortification incidence rates were similar for all cancers combined and for most specific cancer types. Rates of Wilms tumor (WT), primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs), and ependymomas were significantly lower postfortification. Joinpoint regression models detected increasing WT incidence from 1986 through 1997 followed by a sizable decline from 1997 through 2008, and increasing PNET incidence from 1986 through 1993 followed by a sharp decrease from 1993 through 2008. Loess curves indicated similar patterns.
These results provide support for a decrease in WT and possibly PNET incidence, but not other childhood cancers, after US folic acid fortification.