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Genetic Variants Increase Bowel Cancer Risk


Tuesday 1 April 2008


Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and London Research Institute, funded by Cancer Research UK, have identified two new genetic variants that increase a person’s risk of getting bowel cancer. Their findings are published in this month’s Nature Genetics*.


These results, combined with genetic variants found in previous studies, have identified a group of people who are four times more likely to get bowel cancer. The significance of these results is that once a test has been developed, this group of people would be suitable for intensive screening for the disease.


The teams carried out a 'whole genome search' to pinpoint the two genetic variants, which are located on chromosomes 10p14 and 8q23.3.


In the UK, more than 36,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year and around 16,000 people die.


Professor Richard Houlston, joint lead researcher based at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: "This is an exciting development in our understanding of how bowel cancer develops. By pinpointing individuals at a significantly increased risk of the disease we can begin to develop techniques for targeting screening. Ultimately we hope to reduce the number of people dying of this disease.”


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Notes to editors:

For further information contact Hannah Crabtree in the press office at The Institute of Cancer Research: 0207 153 5430 / 07721 747900



 * A genome-wide association study identifies novel colorectal cancer susceptibility loci on chromosomes 10p14 and 8q23.3. Tomlinson et al. 2008. Nature Genetics.


Bowel cancer

  • Every year in the UK, around 36,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer. It is the third most common cancer after breast and lung and the disease causes almost 16,100 deaths in the UK every year.
  • Around two-thirds of cases are in the large bowel (colon) and the remaining third are in the back passage (rectum). The occurrence of bowel cancer is strongly related to age, with over 80 per cent of cases arising in people who are 60 years or older.


About The Institute of Cancer Research

  • The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. Website at:
  • The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. The Institute is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 90p in every £ directly supporting research.


About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer. Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit. 
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