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Genetic variants associated with colorectal cancer risk: comprehensive research synopsis, meta-analysis, and epidemiological evidence
  1. Xiangyu Ma1,2,
  2. Ben Zhang2,
  3. Wei Zheng2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, College of Preventive Medicine, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China
  2. 2Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Dr Wei Zheng, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 2525 West End Avenue, 8th Floor, Nashville, TN 37203-1738, USA; wei.zheng{at}


Objective In the past two decades, approximately 1000 reports have been published regarding associations between genetic variants in candidate genes and risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). Study results are inconsistent. We aim to provide a synopsis of the current understanding of genetic factors for CRC risk through systematically evaluating results from previous studies.

Design We searched PubMed and Google Scholar to identify papers that investigated associations between genetic variants and CRC risk and published through 25 December 2012. With data from 950 papers, we conducted 910 meta-analyses for 267 genetic variants in 150 candidate genes with at least three data sources. We used Venice criteria and false-positive report probability tests to grade levels of cumulative epidemiological evidence of significant associations with CRC risk.

Results Sixty-two variants in 50 candidate genes showed a nominally significant association with CRC risk (p<0.05). Cumulative epidemiological evidence for a significant association with CRC risk was graded strong for eight variants in five genes (adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), CHEK2, DNMT3B, MLH1 and MUTYH), moderate for two variants in two genes (GSTM1 and TERT), and weak for 52 variants in 45 genes. Additionally, 40 variants in 33 genes showed convincing evidence of no association with CRC risk in meta-analyses including at least 5000 cases and 5000 controls.

Conclusions Approximately 4% of genetic variants evaluated to date in candidate-gene association studies showed moderate to strong cumulative epidemiological evidence of an association with CRC risk. These genetic variants, if confirmed, may explain approximately 5% of familial CRC risk.

  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Meta-Analysis

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