Reducing Colorectal Cancer Risk

In May 2014, researchers reported that higher plasma concentrations of methionine, choline, and betaine are associated with a reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause when both sexes are combined. It is expected to cause approximately 50,310 deaths during 2014.

Researchers proposed that changes in one carbon metabolism could contribute to carcinogenesis by affecting methylation and synthesis of DNA. Thus investigators evaluated the relationship between methyl donors including folate, methionine, choline, betaine (trimethylglycine), and dimethylglycine (DMG) and the risk of colorectal cancer. Previous data indicate that choline and its oxidation product betaine can function as alternative methyl group donors when folate status is low. The researchers evaluated plasma levels of folate, methionine, choline, betaine, and DMG in 965 subjects with colon cancer, 402 subjects with rectal cancer, and 2,323 control subjects.

The investigators found that the subjects with the highest plasma methionine had a 21 percent decreased risk of colorectal cancer, those with the highest plasma choline had a 23 percent decreased risk, and those with the highest betaine had a 15 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer compared to the subjects with the lowest levels. Among the subjects with folate concentration below the median of 11.3 nmol/L, high betaine concentration was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, which was not seen in the subjects with higher folate levels. The investigators also found that higher choline levels were associated with a 38 percent decreased risk of colorectal cancer in the women only compared to the subjects with the lowest levels. The researchers did not find an association with plasma DMG and colorectal cancer risk.

The investigators concluded, “Individuals with high plasma concentrations of methionine, choline, and betaine may be at reduced risk of colorectal cancer.”

To learn more about your health call 973-736-5300 and make an appointment at Integrative Medicine of New Jersey


Nitter M, et al. Ann Oncol. 2014 May 14. [Epub ahead of print.]

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