Background: Evidence has accumulated which suggests that sex steroids influence colorectal cancer development and progression. We therefore assessed the association of repeat polymorphisms in the estrogen receptor β gene (ESR2) and the androgen receptor gene (AR) with colorectal cancer risk and prognosis.
Methods: The ESR2 CA and AR CAG repeat polymorphisms were genotyped in 1798 cases (746 female, 1052 male) and 1810 controls (732 female, 1078 male), matched for sex, age and county of residence. Colorectal cancer risk associations overall and specific for gender were evaluated using multivariate logistic regression models adjusted for sex, county of residence and age. Associations with overall and disease-specific survival were evaluated using Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for established prognostic factors (diagnosis of other cancer after colorectal cancer diagnosis, detection by screening, treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy, tumour extent, nodal status, distant metastasis, body mass index, age at diagnosis and year of diagnosis) and stratified for grade of differentiation. Heterogeneity in gender specific associations was assessed by comparing models with and without a multiplicative interaction term by means of a likelihood ratio test.
Results: The average number of ESR2 CA repeats was associated with a small 5% increase in colorectal cancer risk (OR = 1.05, 95% CI 1.01-1.10) without significant heterogeneity according to gender or tumoural ESR2 expression. We found no indication for an association between the AR CAG repeat polymorphisms and risk of colorectal cancer. The ESR2 CA and AR CAG repeat polymorphisms were not associated with overall survival or disease specific survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis.
Conclusions: Higher numbers of ESR2 CA repeats are potentially associated with a small increase in colorectal cancer risk. Our study does not support an association between colorectal cancer prognosis and the investigated repeat polymorphisms.