Independent and joint effects of family history and lifestyle on colorectal cancer risk: Implications for prevention

Loïc Le Marchand*, Lynne R. Wilkens, Jean H. Hankin, Laurence N. Kolonel, Li Ching Lyu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that, for a substantial proportion of 'sporadic' colorectal cancers (CRCs), inheritance determines individual susceptibility and that lifestyle determines which susceptible individuals express cancer. Because the genetic basis of this inherited susceptibility remains undefined, we used family history of the disease as a proxy for a genetic predisposition to examine its interactions with a variety of lifestyle factors in a large population-based case-control study of CRC. The subjects were 698 male and 494 female Japanese, Caucasian, Filipino, Hawaiian, and Chinese patients diagnosed with CRC in Hawaii during 1987-1991 and 1192 population controls matched to cases on age, sex, and ethnicity. Fourteen percent of the cases and 6% of the controls reported a family history of CRC among parents or siblings. After adjusting for other covariates, significant interactions with family history were found for beef and ethanol intakes in males (P = 0.03). Relative to men without a family history and whose intake fell in the lower third, odds ratios (ORs) for CRC for men with a family history and in the upper tertile of intake were 10.8 [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.2-27.6] and 7.5 (CI, 3.118.2) for beef and ethanol, respectively. The corresponding ORs for men without a family history and in the upper tertile were 1.5 (CI, 1.0-2.3) and 1.4 (CI, 1.0-1.9), respectively. No interactions were detected in women. Using a summary measure of lifestyle, we found that family history was not associated with CRC among men who were at the lower-risk tertile for all of the lifestyle risk factors. In contrast, the OR for men with a family history and at the higher-risk tertile for all of the lifestyle variables was 11.7 (CI, 5.8-23.9). In the absence of a family history, this OR was 4.8 (CI, 3.2-7.2). These data suggest that family history increases the risk of sporadic CRC in men mainly through its interaction with lifestyle exposures, primarily a high beef and ethanol intake, and are consistent with recent reports of effect modifications of dietary associations by metabolic genes. Computation of population attributable risks also suggested that a comprehensive reduction in exposure to lifestyle risk factors-and more specifically to ethanol and beef for individuals with a familial predisposition for the disease-may have a large beneficial effect on CRC incidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-51
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Jan
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


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