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Serum ghrelin concentration linked to colorectal cancer risk

Posted on August 17, 2017

In a new study from the National Cancer Institute, researchers report an association between the hormone ghrelin, measured in blood serum, and risk of colorectal cancer in a population of male Finnish smokers.

Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach, is involved in a variety of metabolic functions ranging from stimulation of gastric acid and regulation of motility to appetite control. Prospective studies have reported that low concentrations of serum ghrelin are linked with an increased risk of developing oesophageal and gastric cancers.

To explore the relationship between serum ghrelin concentration and subsequent risk of colorectal cancer, Gwen A. Murphy, Ph.D., M.P.H., and colleagues conducted a case-control study nested within the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. They observed an unexpected pattern: individuals whose serum concentrations were low had a 10-fold increase of developing colorectal cancer within 10 years of their blood draw. Conversely, low-serum ghrelin concentration was associated with a significantly decreased risk of developing colorectal cancer more than 20 years after their blood draw.

These results suggest that ghrelin concentrations may vary across the carcinogenic process. The authors note that further studies are necessary to replicate these findings and to explore variation in serum concentration across the natural history of colorectal cancer.

Reference: Murphy G, et al. Serum ghrelin is associated with risk of colorectal adenocarcinomas in the ATBC study. Gut. August 16, 2017. DOI: 0.1136/gutjnl-2016-313157