Plasma methionine, choline, betaine, and dimethylglycine in relation to colorectal cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)

M. Nitter, B. Norgard, S. de Vogel*, S.J.P.M. Eussen, K. Meyer, A. Ulvik, P.M. Ueland, O. Nygard, S.E. Vollset, T. Bjorge, A. Tjonneland, L. Hansen, M. Boutron-Ruault, A. Racine, V. Cottet, R. Kaaks, T. Kühn, A. Trichopoulou, C. Bamia, A. NaskaS. Grioni, D. Palli, S. Panico, R. Tumino, P. Vineis, H.B. Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. van Kranen, P.H. Peeters, E. Weiderpass, M. Dorronsoro, P. Jakszyn, M. Sánchez, M. Argüelles, J.M. Huerta, A. Barricarte, M. Johansson, I. Ljuslinder, K. Khaw, N. Wareham, H. Freisling, T. Duarte-Salles, M. Stepien, M.J. Gunter, E. Riboli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

33 Citations (Web of Science)


Background: Disturbances in one carbon metabolism may contribute to carcinogenesis by affecting methylation and synthesis of DNA. Choline and its oxidation product betaine are involved in this metabolism and can serve as alternative methyl group donors when folate status is low. Patients and methods: We conducted a case-control study nested within the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), to investigate plasma concentrations of the methyl donors methionine, choline, betaine (trimethylglycine), and dimethylglycine (DMG) in relation to colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. Our study included 1367 incident CRC cases (965 colon and 402 rectum) and 2323 controls matched by gender, age group, and study center. Multivariate-adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) for CRC risk were estimated by conditional logistic regression, comparing the fifth to the first quintile of plasma concentrations. Results: Overall, methionine (OR: 0.79, 95% CI: 0.63-0.99, P-trend = 0.05), choline (OR: 0.77, 95% CI: 0.60-0.99, P-trend = 0.07), and betaine (OR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.66-1.09, P-trend = 0.06) concentrations were inversely associated with CRC risk of borderline significance. In participants with folate concentration below the median of 11.3 nmol/l, high betaine concentration was associated with reduced CRC risk (OR: 0.71, 95% CI: 0.50-1.00, P-trend = 0.02), which was not observed for those having a higher folate status. Among women, but not men, high choline concentration was associated with decreased CRC risk (OR: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.43-0.88, P-trend = 0.01). Plasma DMG was not associated with CRC risk. Conclusions: Individuals with high plasma concentrations of methionine, choline, and betaine may be at reduced risk of CRC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1609-1615
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014


  • methionine
  • choline
  • betaine
  • dimethylglycine
  • colorectal cancer risk
  • population-based case-control study

Cite this