Study Finds No Link between B Vitamin Supplements and Colon Cancer Risk

For some time, researchers have had mixed opinions as to the effect of B vitamins on the risk of colon cancer. Some have suggested that these vitamins might increase the risk of pre-cancerous lesions, while others believed they might provide some preventive benefit.

According to the results of a study published in the Oct. 12 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a B vitamin combination supplement has no effect, positive or negative, on the risk of colon cancer.

The study was conducted by a Harvard Medical School team led by Dr. Yiqing Song. The team used data from the Women’s Antioxidant and Folic Acid Cardiovascular Study that included 5,442 female health professionals at high risk for cardiovascular disease and ran from April 1998 through July 2005. In that study, participants were randomly assigned to receive a combination of folic acid (B9), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 or placebo.

Song’s study focused on 1,470 women in the group who underwent an endoscopic exam sometime during the study’s nine year follow-up period. In reviewing data related to this subset, Song and his team found that the risk was almost identical among participants receiving the vitamin supplements (24.3 percent) compared to those receiving placebo (24 percent).

The news is encouraging in light of the fact that so many foods in our country are fortified with folic acid to help prevent birth defects.

As research continues on the possible cancer-preventing benefits of vitamin supplements, the American Cancer Society stands firm in its stance that lifestyle modification remains the best means of prevention. Regular screening is the single best way to prevent the risk of colon cancer, as the removal of pre-cancerous polyps prevents colon cancer altogether.

In addition to regular screenings, these habits will help lower your risk of colon cancer, as well as improve your overall health:

  • Follow a healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in red and processed meats.
  • Participate in regular, intense physical activity.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D.