Circulating inflammatory markers and colorectal cancer risk: A prospective case-cohort study in Japan

Int J Cancer. 2018 Dec 1;143(11):2767-2776. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31821. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Blood levels of inflammation-related markers may reveal molecular pathways contributing to carcinogenesis. To date, prospective associations with colorectal cancer (CRC) risk have been based on few studies with limited sets of analytes. We conducted a case-cohort study within the Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study Cohort II, comparing 457 incident CRC cases during median 18 years follow-up with a random subcohort of 774 individuals. Baseline plasma levels of 62 cytokines, soluble receptors, acute-phase proteins, and growth factor markers were measured using Luminex bead-based assays. We estimated hazard ratios (HRs) associating each marker with CRC risk by Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for potential confounders. Subanalyses compared cases by years after blood draw (<5 vs. ≥5) and anatomical subsite (colon vs. rectum). Linear trends in quantiles of four C-C motif ligand (CCL) chemokines, one C-X-C motif ligand (CXCL) chemokine, and a soluble receptor were nominally associated with CRC risk based on ptrend < 0.05, but none met false discovery rate corrected statistical significance. HRs for the 4th vs. 1st quartile were: 1.69 for CCL2/MCP1, 1.61 for soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 2, 1.39 for CCL15/MIP1D, 1.35 for CCL27/CTACK, 0.70 for CXCL6/GCP2 and 0.61 for CCL3/MIP1A. Among cases diagnosed 5+ years after enrollment, CCL2/MCP1, CCL3/MIP1A and CXCL6/GCP2 retained nominal statistical significance. There were no significant differences in associations between colon and rectum. Our findings implicate chemokine alterations in colorectal carcinogenesis, but require replication for confirmation. Noninvasive chemokine assays may have potential application in colorectal cancer screening and etiologic research.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; biomarker; chemokines; inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / blood*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cytokines