Prediagnostic levels of serum one-carbon metabolites and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma

Lesley M. Butler, Erland Arning, Renwei Wang, Teodoro Bottiglieri, Sugantha Govindarajan, Yu Tang Gao, Jian Min Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Rats fed diets deficient in choline develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Tumor DNA from these animals is characteristically hypomethylated, suggesting that disruption of the one-carbon metabolism pathway is an underlying mechanism for hepatocarcinogenesis. Prospective studies in humans on circulating choline and other one-carbon metabolites and hepatocellular carcinoma risk have been lacking. Methods: We prospectively examined the association between prediagnostic serum concentrations of onecarbon metabolites including betaine, choline, cystathionine, homocysteine, methionine, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), pyridoxal-5-phosphate (PLP, the bioactive form of vitamin B6) and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), and risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma based on a nested case-control study of 297 incident cases and 631 matched controls from a cohort of 18,244 men in Shanghai, China. Logistic regression methods were used to calculate ORs and 95% confidence intervals (CI) adjusted for established risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma. Results: Serum choline and PLP were associated with statistically significant reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, whereas serum cystathionine, methionine, andSAMwere associated with increased hepatocellular carcinoma risk (all Ptrend < 0.05). The inverse associations for hepatocellular carcinoma risk with choline and PLP remained statistically significant after adjusting for all potential confounders. The multivariate-adjusted ORs (95% CIs) for the highest versus lowest quintiles of serum choline and PLP were 0.35 (0.16-0.78; P =0.010) and 0.44 (0.25-0.78; P = 0.005), respectively. There were no associations for hepatocellular carcinoma risk with 5-MTHF, betaine, or homocysteine. Conclusion: The inverse associations between choline and vitamin B6 and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma development are novel and warrant further investigation. Impact: Identifying new modifiable factors for hepatocellular carcinoma prevention is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1884-1893
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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