Background: Serum β-2 microglobulin (B2M), a major histocompatibility complex class I molecule that is a biomarker of kidney filtration and increased cell turnover, is elevated at the time of diagnosis in hematological and some solid cancers. However, serum B2M was not examined prospectively as a marker for cancer risk. We hypothesized that in a population without a prior cancer diagnosis, serumB2Mis associated with risk of cancer (n=2,436), including colorectal (n = 255), lung (n = 298), breast (n = 424), and prostate (n = 524) cancers, and hematological (n = 176) malignancies. Methods: The analytical cohort (n = 12,300) was followed for incident cancers from 1990 through 2006. B2M (range, 0.9-57.8 mg/L) was measured in stored serum collected in 1990-1992. Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals for cancer incidence and mortality in relation to quartiles of B2M. Results: Adjusting for age, sex, race, center, education, body mass index, smoking, aspirin, and hormone therapy (in women) and comparing highest to lowest B2M quartiles, HRs were 1.25 (1.06-1.47; Ptrend = 0.002) for total cancer risk and 2.21 (1.32-3.70; Ptrend=0.001) for colorectal cancer risk, with similar HRs for colon and rectal cancers. These associations remained after adjustment for an inflammatory biomarker, C-reactive protein, and after excluding the first three years of follow-up. Significant associations were also observed for mortality from total, lung, and hematological cancers. Conclusions: These findings provide the first evidence that higher serum B2M is associated with increased colorectal cancer risk. Impact: This study supports B2M as a potential biomarker for colorectal cancer risk.
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