Life Extension Update
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Further evidence linking greater vitamin B6 intake with colorectal cancer protection
A study published in the June 2005 issue of the journal Gastroenterology (http://www.gastrojournal.org), established an association between a higher intake of vitamin B6 and a reduction in women’s colorectal cancer risk, particularly among those who consume alcohol. Readers of Life Extension’s online “What’s Hot” column may recall that a similar association was observed among participants in the Nurses’ Health Study by Harvard researchers in a report published in the May 4, 2005 Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
For the current study, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Harvard School of Public Health used data from the Swedish Mammography Cohort, which enrolled 61,433 Swedish women aged 40 to 75 between 1987 and 1990, who were followed for an average of 14.8 years. Questionnaires completed at the beginning of the study and in 1997 provided information on vitamin B6 intake from diet and supplements.
During the follow up period, there were 547 women diagnosed with colon cancer, 252 with rectal cancer and 6 with both cancers. Analysis of the data found a 34 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer for women whose vitamin B6 intake was in the highest one-fifth of participants compared to those in the lowest fifth.
Although the researchers found no overall association between alcohol intake and colorectal cancer risk, there was an association observed between the two among women whose vitamin B6 intake was low. However, among moderate drinkers, the risk of developing the disease was 72 percent lower for those in the top one-fifth of B6 intake compared to the lowest fifth.
Lead author Susanna Larsson, MSc of the Karolinska Institutet commented, “Consuming a diet high in vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in women, more specifically those who consume alcohol. Inadequate vitamin B6 status may lead to the development of cancerous polyps in the colon, so it is important for women to maintain a normal to high intake of vitamin B6."
She added, "These findings may have important implications for the prevention of colorectal cancer in women who consume alcohol because their vitamin B6 status can be easily improved through dietary modifications, vitamin supplementation and fortification.”
There is a direct relationship suggested by epidemiological studies between total fat intake in the diet and increased risk of cancer in the colon and rectum. Animal fat, particularly dairy products, and red meat are associated with colon cancer risk, whereas there is no association with vegetable fats, and fish oils appear to have a protective effect (Schloss et al. 1997).
The risk factor associated with alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking is startling. Daily alcohol intake has been associated with a twofold increase in colon carcinoma (Giovannuci et al. 1998). Smoking is an independent risk factor and long-term smoking is particularly damaging, increasing the relative risk by 1.6-4.5 fold for adenoma formation (Nagata et al. 1999) Smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day increases the likelihood of having polyps by more then 250%, while alcohol consumption increases likelihood by 87%. When combined, smoking and alcohol consumption increase the likelihood by an astonishing 400% (Martinez et al. 1995; Lieberman et al. 2003).
In high-risk individuals, the use of multivitamins has been shown to reduce the risk of adenoma formation (Whelan et al.1999). A reduced risk of colon cancer is associated with the use of vitamin C (Howe et al. 1992). Vitamins C, E, and A showed protection against the risk of developing colorectal cancer (Newberne et al. 1990).
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