Did you know that the incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing in men and women under the age of 50? This rise is disturbing since people who are at average risk of colon cancer often don't begin screening until the age of 50. Some health care professionals now recommend screening earlier due to the rise in colorectal malignancies.

It's not clear why cancers of the colon and rectum are increasing. One theory is that obesity plays a role, as obesity is a risk factor for developing up to 13 types of cancer. Lifestyle, including poor dietary choices, and lack of physical activity are other possible contributors to the rising risk.

It's obvious that junk food does nothing positive for colon health, but are there certain dietary components that are lacking in people who develop colon cancer? Some studies suggest that consuming more fruits and vegetables provides some protection against colon malignancies. Other research suggests that consuming more dietary calcium may lower the risk. Also of interest are studies showing that vitamin B6, a vitamin in the B family of vitamins, plays a role in colorectal cancer.

Vitamin B6 and Colon Cancer 

Is colon cancer and vitamin B6 linked? When researchers analyzed the results of 14 studies comparing the incidence of colorectal cancer and blood levels of vitamin B6, they found an intriguing association. For every 100-pmol/ml. rise in blood levels of vitamin B6, the incidence of colorectal cancer dropped by 49%. These findings show a correlation but can't prove causation. It doesn't show that vitamin B6 directly contributes to colorectal cancer. However, other studies suggest that low levels could be a risk.  

The Protective Effect of Vitamin B6 against Colorectal Cancer 

One of the events that initiates cancer is a mutation in the sequence of genes that makes up DNA, the genetic material inside cells. If the mutation damages a gene that helps suppress tumor growth, a cancer can grow and divide out of control. Vitamin B6 plays a key role in the synthesis of DNA. If vitamin B6 levels are low, it could increase the risk of a cancer-inducing DNA mutation occurring. In addition, studies also show that cancer patients have lower levels of vitamin B6.

What Are the Best Sources of Vitamin B6? 

Meat and dairy are the best sources of vitamin B6 with poultry, beef, liver, and dairy foods being standout ways to boost your vitamin B6 intake, but plant-based eaters can get vitamin B6 from bananas, green vegetables, avocados, wheat germ, quinoa, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, tahini, squash, and Brussels sprouts.

Vegetarians and vegans should be especially conscious of consuming enough vitamin B6-rich plant-based foods since they don't consume meat, which is the best source of vitamin B6. Plus, studies find that people absorb vitamin B6 better from meat and dairy than from plant-based foods. Some packaged foods, such as yogurt, milk, and breakfast cereal, are fortified with vitamin B6 and can be a good source of this B-vitamin. Check the label to be sure a product contains vitamin B6.

The Bottom Line 

Studies show an intriguing link between low vitamin B6 and a higher risk of colorectal cancer. Although it doesn't necessarily mean that consuming more vitamin B6 will prevent colon malignancies, be sure you're not deficient in this vitamin. If you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, your risk is higher. Don't go overboard though! More isn't better and too much can lead to nerve damage. It's hard to get too much vitamin B6 from food alone. The best approach to lowering your risk of colorectal cancer is to eat a diverse diet of nutrient-dense food with lots of fruits and vegetables. If you’re having trouble getting enough from your food, you can try trusted private label vitamin manufacturing to get exactly what you need for your body. Also, stay physically active, and know your family history. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your doctor may recommend earlier and more frequent screening.