Genes Linked To Early Onset, Location Of Hereditary Colon Cancer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers have identified a mechanism that may explain where colorectal tumors arise and at what age the tumors develop in people with one form of colorectal cancer.

The study involved people with hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), the most common form of hereditary cancer.

The results help explain why some people with the same HNPCC-related genetic mutation develop colorectal tumors at age 30 while others develop tumors at age 60. They also help explain why tumors in some patients develop in the distal area of the large intestine (that is, regions closer to the rectum) rather than in regions closer to the large intestine's junction with the small intestine, which is more typical.

The genes identified by the researchers are all involved in the detoxification of cancer-causing chemicals in cells.

Our findings suggest that even in individuals with a strong genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer, exposure to carcinogens and an individual's genetic capacity to detoxify them may play a role in the development of tumors," said Paivi Peltomaki, associate professor in the Human Cancer Genetics Program at Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

It also implies that measures found to help prevent colon cancer may also help delay onset in people genetically predisposed to the disease. These measures include eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; avoiding foods that are high in fat and low in fiber; and getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.

The study, led by Peltomaki and involving a team of researchers, appeared in the December issue of the journal Gastroenterology. It involved 76 individuals in Finland with HNPCC who had colorectal tumors. These individuals all had the HNPCC- related mutation in the MLH1 gene. The MLH1 gene is one of five genes linked to HNPCC.

The average age of cancer diagnosis in the group was about 42 years. When looked

Contact: Paivi Peltomaki
Ohio State University

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