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Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2008 Nov;1(6):460-9. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0135.

Genetic variations in microRNA-related genes are novel susceptibility loci for esophageal cancer risk.

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Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


MicroRNAs (miRNA) can act as oncogenes or tumor suppressors and modulate the expression of approximately one third of all human genes. To test the hypothesis that adverse alleles in miRNA-related genes may increase the risk for esophageal cancer, we assessed the associations between esophageal cancer risk and 41 potentially functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in 26 miRNA-related genes in a case-control study of 346 Caucasian esophageal cancer patients (85.5% with esophageal adenocarcinoma) and 346 frequency-matched (age, gender, and ethnicity) controls. Seven SNPs were significantly associated with esophageal cancer risk. The most notable finding was that the SNP rs6505162, which is located in the pre-mir423 region, was associated with a per-allele odds ratio of 0.64 [95% confidence interval (95% CI), 0.51-0.80; P for trend < 0.0001]. This association remained significant after we corrected for multiple comparisons. A common haplotype of the GEMIN4 gene was associated with a significantly reduced risk of esophageal cancer (odds ratio, 0.65; 95% CI, 0.42-0.99). We did a combined unfavorable genotype analysis to further evaluate the cumulative effects of the promising (risk associated) SNPs. In comparison with the low-risk group (fewer than three unfavorable genotypes), the medium-risk group (three unfavorable genotypes) had a 2.00-fold (95% CI, 1.31-3.08) increased risk and the high-risk group (more than three unfavorable genotypes) had a 3.14-fold (95% CI, 2.03-4.85) increased risk (P for trend < 0.0001). Results for the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma were similar to the overall risk results. The present study provides the first evidence that miRNAs may affect esophageal cancer risk in general and that specific genetic variants in miRNA-related genes may affect esophageal cancer risk individually and jointly.

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