Estimation of Absolute Risk of Colorectal Cancer Based on Healthy Lifestyle, Genetic Risk, and Colonoscopy Status in a Population-Based Study

Prudence R. Carr, Korbinian Weigl, Dominic Edelmann, Lina Jansen, Jenny Chang-Claude, Hermann Brenner, Michael Hoffmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background & Aims: Estimates of absolute risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) are needed to facilitate communication and better inform the public about the potentials and limits of cancer prevention. Methods: Using data from a large population-based case-control study in Germany (Darmkrebs: Chancen der Verhütung durch Screening [DACHS] study, which began in 2003) and population registry data, we calculated 30-year absolute risk estimates for development of CRC based on a healthy lifestyle score (derived from 5 modifiable lifestyle factors: smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity, and body fatness), a polygenic risk score (based on 90 single-nucleotide polymorphisms), and colonoscopy history. Results: We analyzed data from 4220 patients with CRC and 3338 individuals without CRC. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle and colonoscopy in the preceding 10 years were associated with a reduced relative risk of CRC in men and women. We observed a higher CRC risk in participants with high or intermediate genetic risk scores. For 50-year-old men and women without a colonoscopy, the absolute risk of CRC varied according to the polygenic risk score and the healthy lifestyle score (men, 3.5%–13.4%; women, 2.5%–10.6%). For 50-year-old men and women with a colonoscopy, the absolute risk of developing CRC was much lower but still varied according to the polygenic risk score and the healthy lifestyle score (men, 1.2%–4.8%; women, 0.9%–4.2%). Among all risk factor profiles, the 30-year absolute risk estimates consistently decreased with adherence to a healthy lifestyle. Conclusions: In a population-based study, we found that a colonoscopy can drastically reduce the absolute risk of CRC and that the genetically predetermined risk of CRC can be further reduced by adherence to a healthy lifestyle. Our results show the magnitude of CRC prevention possible through colonoscopy and lifestyle at a predefined genetic risk. This observational study has been registered in the German Clinical Trials Register (DRKS00011793), which is a primary registry in the World Health Organization Registry Network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-138.e9
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Colon Cancer
  • Epidemiology
  • Exercise
  • Food

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