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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2004 Feb;13(2):279-84.

Bowel inflammation as measured by fecal calprotectin: a link between lifestyle factors and colorectal cancer risk.

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Mayday University Hospital, Thornton Heath, Surrey, United Kingdom.


The mechanisms by which the lifestyle risk factors obesity, physical inactivity, and low fiber intake predispose to colorectal cancer (CRC) are unclear. Chronic bowel inflammation predisposes to malignancy in cases of inflammatory bowel disease. Many lifestyle risk factors for CRC are associated with evidence of systemic inflammation as indicated by circulating levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), but it is unknown how this relates to inflammation at tissue level. Little is known about the degree of bowel inflammation in general population and the factors that affect it. Therefore, we aimed to assess the relation of levels of bowel inflammation in the general population and lifestyle risk factors for CRC, and to additionally assess whether these associations, if present, were attenuated by controlling for evidence of systemic inflammation. Average CRC risk subjects (320) of either sex aged 50-70 were recruited in South London. A stool sample was provided for calprotectin measurement (a marker of bowel inflammation), serum for CRP, and a detailed dietary and lifestyle questionnaire completed. There was a significant positive relationship between fecal calprotectin and increasing age (P = 0.002), obesity (P = 0.04), physical inactivity (P = 0.01), and an inverse relationship with fiber intake (P = 0.02) and vegetable consumption (P = 0.04). The relationship with obesity was attenuated by controlling for serum CRP. Fecal calprotectin levels are associated with lifestyle risk factors for colorectal cancer. Low-level asymptomatic bowel inflammation may be the link between lifestyle and the pathogenesis of CRC, and circulating proinflammatory cytokines may be part of the mechanism for this link.

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