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Cancer Res. 2012 Jun 15;72(12):3020-8. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-2619. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Postmenopausal hormone therapy is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer lacking CDKN1A expression.

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Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Experimental studies have shown that estrogen- or progesterone-activated signaling leads to growth inhibition effects on colon cancer cells through the upregulation of several cell-cycle regulators. However, epidemiologic studies evaluating hormone therapy use and colorectal cancer risk by the status of cell-cycle regulators are lacking. In this study, we used data from the prospective Nurses' Health Study to evaluate whether the association between hormone therapy use and colorectal cancer risk differs by the molecular pathologic status of microsatellite instability (MSI) and expression of cell-cycle-related tumor biomarkers, including CDKN1A (p21, CIP1), CDKN1B (p27, KIP1), and TP53 (p53) by immunohistochemistry. Duplication Cox regression analysis was used to determine an association between hormone therapy use, cancer risk, and specific tumor biomarkers in 581 incident colon and rectal cancer cases that occurred during 26 years of follow-up among 105,520 postmenopausal women. We found a difference between hormone therapy use and colorectal cancer risk according to CDKN1A expression (P(heterogeneity) = 0.01). Current hormone therapy use was associated with a reduced risk for CDKN1A-nonexpressed [multivariate relative risk (RR), 0.61; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.46-0.82] but not for CDKN1A-expressed (RR, 1.32; 95% CI, 0.76-2.31) tumors. The lower risk for CDKN1A-nonexpressed but not for CDKN1A-expressed cancers was also present among current users of estrogen-alone therapy. We found no significant difference in the relations between hormone therapy use and cancer risk according to MSI, CDKN1B, or TP53 status. Together, our molecular pathological epidemiology findings suggest a preventive effect of hormone therapy against colorectal carcinogenesis that depends, in part, on loss of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor CDKN1A.

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