Study: People at High Genetic Risk for Colorectal Cancer Benefit More From Lifestyle Changes


The percentage dropped to only about 25% among people at a low genetic risk for the disease.

Individuals who have a higher polygenetic risk score for colorectal cancer could benefit more than those with a lower genetic risk in preventing the disease by leading a healthier lifestyle, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers evaluated data from participants in the UK Biobank and found that maintaining a healthy lifestyle was associated with an approximately 40% reduction in colorectal cancer risk among those with a high genetic risk of developing the disease. The percentage dropped to only about 25% among people at a low genetic risk for the disease.

Additionally, individuals who have a high genetic risk combined with an unhealthy lifestyle are more than 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer than individuals who have a low genetic risk and a healthy lifestyle.

“Results from this study could be useful to design personalized prevention strategies for colorectal cancer prevention,” said Wei Zheng, MD, PhD, MPH, Anne Potter Wilson professor of Medicine and associate director for Population Sciences Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, in a press release.

The researchers used lifestyle scores of unhealthy, intermediate, and healthy determined by waist-to-hip ratio, physical activity, sedentary time, processed and red meat intake, vegetable and fruit intake, alcohol consumption and tobacco use. They used polygenetic risk scores to evaluate genetic susceptibility to colorectal cancer.

The researchers developed polygenetic risk scores using genetic variants that are associated with colorectal cancer risk previously found in recent large genetic studies of more than 120,000 individuals. They also constructed polygenetic risk scores for several other common cancers in research that was published last year in JNCI Cancer Spectrum, according to the press release.


People at high genetic risk for colorectal cancer benefit more from lifestyle changes. VUMC Reporter. Published May 13, 2021. Accessed May 17, 2021.

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