The study, published in Gastroenterology(doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2005.03.002), found that those women who drank moderate to large amounts of alcohol in addition to consuming high quantities of vitamin B6 were more than 70 per cent less likely to develop the disease than their counterparts.
Evidence suggests that alcohol consumption in women with low vitamin B6 intake raises the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Researchers have also previously reported that a higher intake of folate and possibly vitamin B6 may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in female drinkers.
"These findings may have important implications for the prevention of colorectal cancer in women who consume alcohol because their vitamin B6 status can be easily improved through dietary modifications, vitamin supplementation and fortification," said author Susanna Larsson, based at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet.
Colorectal or bowel cancer currently accounts for approximately 500,000 deaths across the world per year, according to the World Health Organisation, and has been linked with a diet rich in fat, refined carbohydrates and animal proteins combined with low physical activity.
The same team previously demonstrated that women in who had the highest intakes of magnesium had a 40 per cent lower risk of developing the disease than those with the lowest intakes.
Using the same population sample, the Swedish Mammography Cohort, researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated data from nearly 67,000 women, aged 40 to 75 years, who gave information on diet, family history of colorectal cancer and use of dietary supplements in a questionnaire.
The authors believe that inadequate vitamin B6 status may lead to the development of cancerous polyps in the colon. The findings need further confirmation in large prospective cohort or intervention studies however.
Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, including fortified cereals, beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables. It performs a wide variety of functions in the body, including helping to maintain normal blood glucose levels, fighting off infections and creating haemoglobin to ensure that oxygen gets to important organs and tissues.