Folic acid fortification may lead to reduction in the number of children suffering from kidney cancers and certain types of brain tumors, says a study.

U.S. Food and drug Administration (FDA) had authorized enrichment of grains with folic acid in March 1996 and had mandated compliance from 1998 to increase the amount of folic acid consumption in women.

Daily consumption of folic acids in women of child-bearing age causes a decrease in neural tube defects (NTD) in babies. Many studies have shown that the fortification of food with folic acids has reduced the number of babies born with NTD.

"Our study is the largest to date to show that folic acid fortification may also lower the incidence of certain types of childhood cancer in the United States," Kimberly J. Johnson, co-author of the study said.

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association says that there was a 19 percent decline in babies born with NTD following folic acid fortification in U.S. food supply.

The present study said that there was a decrease in the incidence of Wilms' tumor, a type of kidney cancer, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET) which is a type of brain cancer.

"We found that Wilms' tumor rates increased from 1986 to 1997 and decreased thereafter, which is an interesting finding since the downward change in the trend coincides exactly with folic acid fortification," Johnson says.

The study included more than 8,000 children diagnosed with cancer.

"PNET rates increased from 1986 to 1993 and decreased thereafter. This change in the trend does not coincide exactly with folic acid fortification, but does coincide nicely with the 1992 recommendation for women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily."

The data analyzed in the study was obtained from National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER).

"Declines in Wilms' tumors and PNETs in children were detected by multiple analyses of the data," Johnson said.

There were concerns that increased folic acid in food might cause other complications in babies like increase risk of certain cancers, but the authors of this study say that folic acids does not increase the risk of cancer among children.

"Here, we are showing that folic acid fortification does not appear to be increasing rates of childhood cancers, which is good news," said Julie A. Ross, co-author of the study.

The researchers said that more studies are required to eliminate other possible explanations.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.