Folate is destroyed rapidly by heat, cold, and exposure to light, including sunlight. So it’s sunlight’s destructive effect on folate in the skin, not the actual sun exposure itself, that accounts for a significant part of the skin cancer problem.
Folate (along with vitamin B12) is absolutely key to DNA reproduction and repair. When skin cell DNA is damaged by errant or excess sunshine, intracellular enzymes dependent on folate and vitamin B12 get right to work repairing the damage, and the skin cell is much less likely to become cancerous.
For decades, folate has been the No. 1 dietary vitamin deficiency. If folate levels are low to begin with, sunshine can make the situation even worse. It’s no wonder skin cancer rates have risen in response.
By supplementing with the right amount of folate, you can ensure that your body has enough to offset the amount destroyed by the sun.
In the UK it is not mandatory to add folic acid to foods.Mandatory fortification is already used in more than 50 countries, including the US and Canada, where research suggests it helps reduce the rate of neural tube defects by 25 to 50%. The UK government is considering forcing food manufacturers to add folic acid to bread to prevent babies being born with spina bifida. The UK currently has the highest rate of nueral tube defects in Europe, of which spina bifida is the most common.
However, even adding folic acid to foods is not enough to do much good.
In addition, there is another drawback linked to folic acid: ‘Folic acid’ is the totally oxidized, totally synthetic form of naturally-occurring folate, not naturally present in any of the foods we eat! A significant percentage of all of us don’t metabolize it well at all.
So folate still competes with essential fatty acids for the No. 1 spot on the vitamin deficiency list. And folate deficiency and insufficiency is a major contributor to not only skin cancer risk, but also higher risk of colon cancer, other gastrointestinal cancers, many blood cancers, and possibly even invasive breast cancer.
At the risk of sounding like your mother, I’ll tell you once again: Eat your vegetables! It really is the best way to ensure that you get adequate folate to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Spinach and other deep green vegetables are particularly good sources. Other good food sources of folate include brewer’s yeast (it’s actually the best source), beans (especially lima beans), cantaloupe, watermelon and wheat germ. Liver is a good source, too, but it must be from entirely organically-raised animals.
Even if you already eat the foods listed above, it’s a good idea to take a folate supplement too. Use at least 1mg (1,000mcg) daily, more if you like to be out in the sun or have a family history of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, you won’t find folate supplements in 1,000mcg quantities because of maximum permitted dosage guidelines. However, you can find 1,000mcg methylfolate tablets (the much more metabolically active form) at many natural health food stores and from online sources.
There have been no recorded acute folate overdoses – ever – so you can go ahead and take two or more 1,000mcg tablets without worrying about taking too much.
However, please avoid ‘folic acid’ supplements. Even a few ‘mainstream’ medical journals are beginning to term this form ‘synthetic folic acid’, and are pointing out that too much of this form may actually increase cancer risk, or promote the growth of early cancers.
Remember, sunlight destroys the natural forms of folate, methylfolate, folinic acid, and others. When supplementing with folate, copy Nature, and use the natural form, not synthetic folic acid!
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 8, Issue 7 – July 2014
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.