Colorectal cancer protective effects and the dietary micronutrients folate, methionine, vitamins B6, B12, C, E, selenium, and lycopene

Nutr Cancer. 2006;56(1):11-21. doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc5601_3.


The data reported here were obtained from the case-control arm of a large, comprehensive, population-based investigation of colorectal cancer incidence, etiology, and survival, the Melbourne Colorectal Cancer Study, conducted in Melbourne, Australia. This part of the case-control study was designed to identify dietary factors associated with colorectal cancer risk in 715 incident cases compared with 727 age/sex frequency-matched randomly chosen community controls, in which a quantitative assessment of all foods eaten was made. New data are presented on the potential of two groups of micronutrients as protective agents, namely, those involved in DNA methylation, synthesis, and repair (folate, methionine, and vitamins B6 and B12) and those with antioxidant properties (selenium, vitamins E and C, and lycopene). The adjusted odds ratios showed that for folate there was significant protection for rectal cancer in second and third quintiles of consumption but not for colon cancer, and this was similar for methionine consumption. Vitamin B6 consumption was significantly protective for both colon and rectal cancer at the higher quintiles, and this was similar for vitamin B12. Dietary selenium was significantly protective at middle quintiles of consumption at both cancer sites. Dietary vitamins E and C were statistically significantly protective for both colon and rectal cancer at all levels of consumption, and for both vitamins there was a dose-response effect of increasing protection, particularly so for colon cancer. Lycopene was not associated with colorectal cancer risk. A combined model included vitamins E, C, and B12 and selenium as micronutrients protective for colorectal cancer and folate, which, however, showed an increased risk at the highest level of consumption. These data support the proposition that a diet containing the dietary micronutrients involved in DNA methylation (folate, methionine, and vitamins B6 and B12) and some of those with antioxidant properties (selenium and vitamins E and C) may have a role to play in lowering colorectal cancer risk and also that such protection can be achieved by dietary means alone.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Ascorbic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Male
  • Methionine / administration & dosage
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / administration & dosage
  • Survival Analysis
  • Vitamin B 12 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 6 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B Complex / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*


  • Antioxidants
  • Micronutrients
  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin E
  • Carotenoids
  • Vitamin B 6
  • Folic Acid
  • Methionine
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Lycopene