Folks at excessive genetic threat for colon most cancers profit extra from lifestyle modifications


PICTURE: Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH, Anne Potter Wilson, Professor of Medicine and Assistant Director of Population Research at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). view More

Photo credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center

According to a study by Vanderbilt researchers published in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people at high polygenic risk for colon cancer could benefit more from preventing the disease through healthy lifestyles than people at lower genetic risk .

Analyzing the data from participants in the UK Biobank, the researchers estimated that maintaining a healthy lifestyle in those at high genetic risk for developing the disease was linked to a nearly 40% reduction in colorectal cancer risk. In people at low genetic risk for this cancer, the percentage dropped to only about 25%. Colon cancer was more than three times more likely to be diagnosed in people with a high genetic risk and an unhealthy lifestyle than people with a low genetic risk and a healthy lifestyle.

“The results of this study could be useful in developing personalized prevention strategies for preventing colon cancer,” said Dr. med. Wei Zheng, MPH, Anne Potter Wilson, Professor of Medicine and Assistant Director of Population Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC)).

In the analysis, lifestyle scores of unhealthy, moderate, and healthy were determined based on waist-to-hip ratios, physical activity, time spent sitting, intake of processed and red meat, intake of vegetables and fruits, alcohol consumption, and tobacco consumption. Polygenic risk assessments are used to measure genetic susceptibility to colon cancer. Vanderbilt researchers produced polygenic risk assessments using genetic variants related to colorectal cancer risk identified in recent large genetic studies involving more than 120,000 subjects. They also created polygenetic risk assessments for several other common cancers in the research published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum last year.

The study, recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is one of the few that quantifies possible overall lifestyle interactions with genetic susceptibility to colon cancer.


The other authors on the study are Jungyoon Choi, Guochong Jia, MPH, Wanqing Wen, MD, MPH, Research Associate Professor of Medicine and Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research.

The research was supported in part by funding provided by the Anne Potter Wilson Chair at Vanderbilt University and a research grant from the National Cancer Institute.

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