Researchers investigated the link between levels of plasma homocysteine and colorectal cancer in postmenopausal women. Will the results shed light on the risk of developing this cancer?

Colorectal cancer—also known as bowel cancer–is a cancer of the colon (large intestine) or rectum. It’s the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death when statistics for both sexes are combined.

Improved screening techniques have led to the death rate dropping for colorectal cancer. The polyps which form in the early stages can be removed before they develop into cancers, and early detection also means much better prognosis. All cancers are easier to treat when they are detected early.

But better understanding of colorectal cancer is an important topic of research. And new screening techniques could help diagnose the disease even earlier.

JW Miller, SA Beresford, et al, researchers at the Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of California, USA, developed a study to assess the links between the amino acids homocysteine, cysteine, and the incidence of colorectal cancer in postmenopausal women.

Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid. It’s similar in formula to cysteine, though homocysteine is biosynthesized in our bodies, from the amino acid methionine. It can also be converted into methionine or cysteine with the aid of B-vitamins. We also get cysteine from food, especially high-protein foods like meat, cheese, and eggs.

High levels of homocysteine have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Would they also be linked to colorectal cancer?

Results of homocysteine, cysteine, and colorectal cancer trial

The trial found some significant results. High levels of homocysteine were associated with proximal colon tumors, though not distal or rectal tumors.

They concluded that high plasma homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. High levels of cysteine indicate a decreased risk.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23426034