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Chemoprevention of cervical cancer with folic acid: a phase III Southwest Oncology Group Intergroup study.


Several epidemiological reports and experimental investigations have suggested a preventive role for folic acid in the etiology of cervical cancer. The effect of p.o. folic acid supplementation on the natural history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) was evaluated in a multiinstitutional prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Three hundred thirty-one women with biopsy-proven koilocytic atypia, mild CIN, or moderate CIN were randomized to receive oral folic acid (5 mg) or a similar-appearing placebo daily for 6 months following a 1-month run-in placebo period. Colposcopy, Papanicolaou smear, and serum vitamin levels (folate, retinol, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, and retinyl palmitate) were monitored every 3 months. Demographic, medical, dietary, and sexual history data were obtained from personal interviews. The primary end point of the study was improvement in both Papanicolaou smear and colposcopic picture after 3 and 6 months of treatment as compared to the start of treatment. After 6 months of treatment there was no significant difference between the two study groups in the percentage of patients improved. Median serum folate levels in the treatment arm at 3 and 6 months (29.0 and 20.0 micrograms/dl) were significantly higher than those in the placebo arm (7.8 and 7.1 micrograms/dl, respectively). Mean serum levels of retinol, retinyl palmitate, alpha-tocopherol, and beta-carotene did not differ significantly between the two treatment arms. Our data support the conclusion that supplementation with folic acid (5 mg/day) does not enhance the regression of early epithelial abnormalities of the cervix.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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