Hope for bowel cancer sufferers as scientists discover gene link

Scientists have found the first common genetic trait linked with an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, a discovery that could eventually lead to better diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Three teams of researchers sifted through the entire human complement of genes to make the find, which they believe will result in a better understanding of why bowel cancer develops in genetically susceptible people.

Each year in the UK some 35,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer, which is the third most common cancer after breast and lung, with an annual death rate of 16,100. Around half of the population carry the genetic variant that has now been linked to bowel cancer.

Scientists calculate that carrying the variant increases the risk of developing the disease by about 20 per cent. The lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer is one in 20 for the general population, but this increases to one in 16 for people who have inherited the genetic variant, according to Cancer Research UK, which helped to fund the studies, published in the journal Nature Genetics.

"Each team carried out a whole genome search and pinpointed a gene that is faulty more often among bowel cancer patients than in people without the disease," said a spokeswoman for the charity. "They narrowed down the gene's location within the genome to a region called 8q24.

"Scientists recently found that men who have the same genetic variant are at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer," she added.

Some other genes are already known to contribute to an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, but these are very rare - only about one person in every 2,500 carries any of the known bowel cancer genes.

Both genes and environment - such as diet or lifestyle - contribute to the risk of bowel cancer. Scientists estimated that about a third of bowel cancers have a genetic component, and just 5 per cent of them are linked to previously known genes. The latest studies, however, suggest that the 8q24 genetic variant is linked to about one in 10 bowel cancers diagnosed each year in Britain - about 3,500 cases. Although this is the most important genetic link yet, it is still too small for it to be used as a diagnostic test.

"This is an important first step, but we still have a long way to go before we have a complete picture of all the genes that are involved in inherited bowel cancer risk," said Professor Ian Tomlinson of Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute. "Eventually it may be possible for scientists to design treatments to prevent people at increased risk from developing bowel cancer altogether."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...

Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

Recruitment Genius: Fundraising Manager / Income Generation Coach

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project