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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 May;14(5):1198-203.

The MTHFR C677T polymorphism and colorectal cancer: the multiethnic cohort study.

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Etiology Program, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, 1236 Lauhala Street, Suite 407, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is a key regulatory enzyme in the metabolism of folate, a nutrient that has been inversely related to colorectal cancer risk. The common C677T variant in the MTHFR gene results in a reduced activity of this enzyme, thereby increasing the availability of folate for the production of thymidylate and purine for DNA synthesis and repair. We investigated the association of the 677TT genotype with colorectal cancer in a case-control study of 822 cases and 2,021 controls nested within the Multiethnic Cohort Study. The Multiethnic Cohort Study is a large prospective study of men and women of Japanese, White, African American, Latino, and Native Hawaiian origin, residing in Hawaii and Los Angeles. After adjusting for covariates, we found an inverse association between colorectal cancer risk and the TT genotype, with odds ratios (OR; and 95% confidence intervals) for the CC, CT, and TT genotypes of 1.00, 1.01 (0.84-1.21), and 0.77 (0.58-1.03), respectively. This association was similar in both sexes, stronger at high levels of folate intake, and limited to light and nondrinkers (P for interaction with ethanol = 0.02). An analysis by subsite (rectum versus colon) and stage (regional/distant versus in situ/localized) showed that the inverse association with the TT genotype was limited to colon tumors, especially those diagnosed at an advanced stage. The OR for the TT versus CC genotype for early- and late-stage colon cancer was 0.88 (0.58-1.33) and 0.52 (0.32-0.85), respectively (P for difference in OR = 0.04). The frequency of the T allele was relatively low in African Americans (0.13) and Native Hawaiians (0.22), consistent with their greater likelihood of presenting at a late stage when diagnosed with colorectal cancer. This study corroborates previous findings of an inverse association of the MTHFR 677TT genotype with colorectal cancer, especially at high levels of folate and low levels of ethanol intake. It also suggests that this effect may be specific to advanced colon cancer.

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