Smoking, alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer risk by molecular pathological subtypes and pathways

Efrat L. Amitay, Prudence R. Carr, Lina Jansen, Wilfried Roth, Elizabeth Alwers, Esther Herpel, Matthias Kloor, Hendrik Bläker, Jenny Chang-Claude, Hermann Brenner, Michael Hoffmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Smoking and alcohol increase risk for colorectal malignancies. However, colorectal cancer (CRC) is a heterogenic disease and associations with the molecular pathological pathways are unclear. Methods: This population-based case–control study includes 2444 cases with first-diagnosis CRC and 2475 controls. Tumour tissue was analysed for MSI (microsatellite instability), CIMP (CpG island methylator phenotype), BRAF (B-Raf proto-oncogene serine/threonine kinase gene) and KRAS (Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homologue gene) mutations. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated for associations between alcohol and smoking and CRC molecular subtypes and pathways. Results: Current smoking showed higher ORs for MSI-high (OR = 2.79, 95% CI: 1.86–4.18) compared to MSS (OR = 1.41, 1.14–1.75, p-heterogeneity (p-het) = 0.001), BRAF-mutated (mut) (OR = 2.40, 1.41–4.07) compared to BRAF-wild type (wt) (OR = 1.52, 1.24–1.88, p-het = 0.074), KRAS-wt (OR = 1.70, 1.36–2.13) compared to KRAS-mut (OR = 1.26, 0.95–1.68, p-het = 0.039) and CIMP-high (OR = 2.01, 1.40–2.88) compared to CIMP-low/negative CRC (OR = 1.50, 1.22–1.85, p-het=0.101). Current smoking seemed more strongly associated with sessile serrated pathway (CIMP-high + BRAF-mut; OR = 2.39, 1.27–4.52) than with traditional pathway CRC (MSS + CIMP-low/negative + BRAF-wt; OR = 1.50, 1.16–1.94) and no association was observed with alternate pathway CRC (MSS + CIMP-low/negative + KRAS-wt; OR = 1.08, 0.77–1.43). No heterogeneity was observed in alcohol consumption association by molecular subtypes. Conclusions: In this large case–control study, smoking was more strongly associated with MSI-high and KRAS-wt CRC and with cases showing features of the sessile serrated pathway. Association patterns were less clear for alcohol consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1604-1610
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020
Externally publishedYes

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