Vitamin B-6 May Help People Avoid Colon Cancer

Foods, Supplements Containing B-6 Linked to Lower Cancer Risk

From the WebMD Archives

May 3, 2005 -- Vitamin B-6 may lower the risk of colon cancer, one of the most common cancers in the U.S.

The finding -- reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute -- was based on blood tests and reported food and vitamin consumption in a large group of women. Vitamin B-6 wasn't directly tested.

More research is needed to clarify the association between vitamin B-6 and colon cancer, write the researchers.

Vitamin B-6 is found in a wide variety of foods including fortified cereals, beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables.

Things You Can Do Now

While researchers dig deeper, keep this in mind. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following steps for lowering colorectal cancer risk:

  • Follow screening guidelines.Follow screening guidelines.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.
  • Limit high-fat foods.
  • Get enough exercise -- at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days per week.

The ACS also says some studies suggest that taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid can lower colorectal cancer risk. That statement was written before the new study came out.

Other studies have suggested that calcium from supplements or low-fat dairy products may also help, says the ACS.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S. (not counting skin cancer). The ACS predicts that in 2005, there will be nearly 150,000 new colorectal cancers in the U.S.

More than 56,000 people will die of colorectal cancer in 2005, the ACS estimates, adding that the death rate has been dropping for the past 15 years.

As with many diseases, early detectionearly detection brings the best chance of survival.

Vitamin B-6 and Cancer

The new report is based on a study of more than 32,000 women aged 30 to 55.

Every two to four years, the women completed questionnaires on their medical history, lifestyle, and diet. They provided blood samples at the start of the study.

From 1989-2000, the group had 194 colorectal cancer cases and 410 precancerous cases. The women with those conditions were compared with healthy women of similar backgrounds.

The risk of colorectal cancer was 44% lower for the women with the highest blood level of vitamin B-6 compared with women with the lowest level of vitamin B-6.

Women who had the most vitamin B-6 from foods or supplements were 49% less likely to develop colon cancer.

That finding supports a possible role of vitamin B-6 in the development of colon cancer, write the researchers, who included Esther K. Wei, ScD, of Harvard Medical School and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Wei, E. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 4, 2005; vol 97: pp 684-692. News release, Journal of the National Cancer Institute. WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: "Frequently Asked Questions About Colorectal Cancer." American Cancer Society: "Can Colorectal Cancer Be Prevented?" National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6."
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