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Smoking-related colorectal cancer in older women is associated with molecularly-defined DNA changes
Date:6/29/2010

through epigenetically mediated carcinogenic pathways."

Furthermore, they write: "These findings indicate that epigenetic modification may be functionally involved in smoking-related colorectal carcinogenesis."

The sub-type of colorectal cancer that emerged in the study is more prevalent among older women, making them a rich sample pool for studies. However, for that same reason, the authors caution against generalizing the results to the general public.

The study could have important clinical implications: "Emerging colorectal cancer screening technologies, such as stool assays that are based on methylation markers [signs of epigenetic changes] might be particularly informative for patients with a history of prolonged tobacco use," the authors write.

In an accompanying editorial, C. Richard Boland, M.D. and Ajay Goel, Ph.D., of Baylor University Medical Center, write: "The most important message to take from the study by Limsui et al. is that colorectal cancer is a complex collection of diseases and that causation might be different for each of the categories. Cigarette smoking is associated with a specific subset of these tumors."

Boland and Goel point out that although there is a lot to understand in terms of how smoking interacts with other environmental factors, such as diet, in causing colon cancer, "the methylation pathway is particularly interesting because epigenetic changes, unlike point mutations and chromosomal rearrangements, are potentially reversible. Our task now is to understand how to translate these findings into improved screening and prevention-based strategies."


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Contact: Kristine Crane
jncimedia@oxfordjournals.org
301-841-1285
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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