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Estrogen and progesterone-related gene variants and colorectal cancer risk in women

Jennifer H Lin1*, JoAnn E Manson12, Peter Kraft2, Barbara B Cochrane3, Marc J Gunter4, Rowan T Chlebowski5 and Shumin M Zhang1

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

3 de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA

4 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Yeshiva University, Bronx, NY, USA

5 Department of Medicine, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, CA, USA

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BMC Medical Genetics 2011, 12:78  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-12-78

Published: 31 May 2011



Observational studies and randomized trials have suggested that estrogens and/or progesterone may lower the risk for colorectal cancer. Inherited variation in the sex-hormone genes may be one mechanism by which sex hormones affect colorectal cancer, although data are limited.


We conducted a comprehensive evaluation of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes encoding 3 hormone receptors (ESR1, ESR2, PGR) and 5 hormone synthesizers (CYP19A1 and CYP17A1, HSD17B1, HSD17B2, HSD17B4) among 427 women with incident colorectal cancer and 871 matched controls who were Caucasians of European ancestry from 93676 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational cohort. A total of 242 haplotype-tagging and functional SNPs in the 8 genes were included for analysis. Unconditional logistic regression with adjustment for age and hysterectomy status was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


We observed a weak association between the CYP17A1 rs17724534 SNP and colorectal cancer risk (OR per risk allele (A) = 1.39, 95% CI = 1.09-1.78, corrected p-value = 0.07). In addition, a suggestive interaction between rs17724534 and rs10883782 in 2 discrete LD blocks of CYP17A1 was observed in relation to colorectal cancer (empirical p value = 0.04). Moreover, one haplotype block of CYP19A1 was associated with colorectal cancer (corrected global p value = 0.02), which likely reflected the association with the tagging SNP, rs1902584, in the block.


Our findings offer some support for a suggestive association of CYP17A1 and CYP19A1 variants with colorectal cancer risk.