Background: Carriers of germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes have a high risk of colorectal cancer (CRC), but the modifiers of this risk are not well established. We estimated an association between body mass index (BMI) in early adulthood and subsequent risk of CRC for carriers and, as a comparison, estimated the association for non-carriers.
Methods: A weighted Cox regression was used to analyse height and weight at 20 years reported by 1324 carriers of MMR gene mutations (500 MLH1, 648 MSH2, 117 MSH6 and 59 PMS2) and 1219 non-carriers from the Colon Cancer Family Registry.
Results: During 122,304 person-years of observation, we observed diagnoses of CRC for 659 carriers (50%) and 36 non-carriers (3%). For carriers, the risk of CRC increased by 30% for each 5 kg m(-2) increment in BMI in early adulthood (hazard ratio, HR: 1.30; 95% confidence interval, CI: 1.08-1.58; P=0.01), and increased by 64% for non-carriers (HR: 1.64; 95% CI: 1.02-2.64; P=0.04) after adjusting for sex, country, cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking (and the MMR gene that was mutated in carriers). The difference in HRs for carriers and non-carriers was not statistically significant (P=0.50). For MLH1 and PMS2 (MutLα heterodimer) mutation carriers combined, the corresponding increase was 36% (HR: 1.36; 95% CI: 1.05-1.76; P=0.02). For MSH2 and MSH6 (MutSα heterodimer) mutation carriers combined, the HR was 1.26 (95% CI: 0.96-1.65; P=0.09). There was no significant difference between the HRs for MutLα and MutSα heterodimer carriers (P=0.56).
Conclusion: Body mass index in early adulthood is positively associated with risk of CRC for MMR gene mutation carriers and non-carriers.