Insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) have been associated with growth, body size, physical activity and colorectal cancer (CRC). We hypothesized that variants in IGF-related genes increase the CRC susceptibility associated with a larger body size and a lack of physical activity. We assessed this in The Netherlands Cohort Study. Participants (n = 120852) completed a baseline questionnaire on diet and cancer. ~75% returned toenail clippings. Using a case-cohort approach and 16.3 years of follow-up, toenail DNA from 3768 subcohort members and 2580 CRC cases was genotyped. We aggregated unfavorable alleles (potentially increasing CRC risk) for 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms in 8 genes into a sum score. The sum score (in tertiles) and an IGF1 19-CA repeat polymorphism (19/19, 19/non-19 and non-19/non-19 repeats) in combination with body size (mostly in tertiles) and (non-)occupational physical activity (>12, 8-12 and <8 kJ/min in the job and >90, >60-90, >30-60 and ≤30 min/day) were analyzed by Cox regression. Increasingly higher hazard ratios (HRs) for CRC were observed for a larger adult body mass index, larger trouser size and tallness in the presence of more unfavorable alleles in men. HRs (95% confidence intervals) for joint effects were 1.55 (1.06-2.25), 1.78 (1.29-2.46) and 1.48 (1.01-2.17), respectively. In women, variant repeat alleles halved CRC risk irrespective of body size and physical activity. Almost no interactions tested significant. To conclude, a larger body size was a CRC risk factor in men in the presence of an accumulation of unfavorable alleles in IGF-related genes, but interactions were generally nonsignificant.
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