Background: Insulin resistance has been linked with colorectal neoplasia through a number of mechanistic and observational studies. Allelic variants of genes encoding components of the insulin pathway, including insulin (INS), insulin receptor (INSR), and insulin receptor substrate-1 and insulin receptor substrate-2 (IRS1 and IRS2) have been associated with hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance and may, therefore, predict susceptibility to colorectal neoplasia. Methods: We investigated whether single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in the INS, INSR, IRS1, and IRS2 genes are associated with risk of advanced left-sided colorectal adenoma, a cancer precursor. We analyzed 20 SNPs in a largely Caucasian study population comprising 766 cases with advanced adenomas of the distal colon and 771 controls, all of whom had undergone flexible sigmoidoscopy as part of the screening arm of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Results: Overall, we found limited evidence for a role of gene variants of the insulin signaling pathway and prevalence of advanced colorectal adenoma. We observed a statistically significant interaction between INSR genotypes and body mass index (BMI) with colorectal adenoma prevalence (P value for global test = 0.003) and suggestion of an interaction between INSR genotypes and glycemic load (P value for global test = 0.06); however, exploration of the interaction of BMI and glycemic load with the individual SNPs in INSR did not suggest a single SNP that may explain the significance of these global tests of interaction and did not yield any consistent patterns. Conclusion: These findings do not provide strong evidence for associations between polymorphic variation in genes of the insulin signaling pathway and advanced left-sided colorectal adenoma. Evidence for interaction between INSR variants and BMI and glycemic load for risk of advanced left-sided colorectal adenoma requires independent confirmation, and genotyping of INSR across a broader region and at greater density may be necessary to fully elucidate the nature of these interactions.
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