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Physical activity reduces colorectal cancer risk independent of BMI - A two-sample Mendelian randomisation study

By Xiaomeng Zhang, Evropi Theodoratou, Xue Li, Susan M Farrington, Philip J Law, Peter Broderick, Marion Walker, Jessica MB Rees, Richard Houlston, Ian PM Tomlinson, Harry Campbell, Malcolm G Dunlop, Maria Timofeeva

Posted 09 Oct 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/798470

Background: Evidence from observational studies suggests a protective role for physical activity (PA) against colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. However, it has yet to be established a causal relationship. We conducted a two-sample Mendelian randomisation (MR) study to examine causality between physical activity and CRC risk. Methods: We used common genetic variants associated with self-reported and accelerometer-based physical activity as instrumental variables (IVs) in this MR study. The IVs were derived from the largest available genome-wide association study (GWAS) of physical activity, namely UK Biobank. We analysed the effect of the IVs for physical activity in a large CRC GWAS that included 31 197 cases and 61 770 controls. We applied inverse variance weighted (IVW) method as the main analysis method. Results: Our results demonstrate a protective effect between accelerometer-based physical activity and CRC risk (the outlier-adjusted ORIVW was 0.92 per one standard deviation (SD) increase of accelerometer-base physical activity [95% CI: 0.87-0.98, P: 0.01]). The effect between self-reported physical activity and CRC risk was not statistically significant but was also supportive of an inverse association (the outlier-adjusted ORIVW was 0.61 per 1 SD increase of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity [95%CI: 0.36-1.06, P: 0.08]). Conclusions: The findings of this large MR study show for the first time that objectively measured physical activity is causally implicated in reducing CRC risk. The limitations of the study are that it is based on only two genetic instruments and that it has limited power, despite the study size. Nonetheless, at a population level, these findings provide strong reinforcing evidence to support public health policy measures that encourage exercise, even in obese individuals.

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