Research Highlights

More genetic loci linked to colorectal cancer

Published online 9 November 2010

Mohammed Yahia

Colorectal cancer is the third most deadly type of cancer worldwide. Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) revealed that part of the risk of developing colorectal cancer is hereditary, with 10 loci identified that harbor common variants linked to the disease.

To study this genetic link further, an international group of researchers, involving Sidra Medical and Research Center in Qatar, conducted a meta-analysis of three GWAS with over 3,000 cases of colorectal cancer from the United Kingdom.

The team managed to identify four new loci that increase the risk of colorectal cancer. While all four loci account for ~1.5% of increased risk, they may stack up with other known alleles to pose a more considerable risk.

During the study, the researchers discovered there are some limitations to large-scale studies that try to identify genes that predispose a person to a disease. It can be tricky identifying some of the smaller loci, such as those found in this study. Many other loci involved in colorectal cancer may therefore lie undiscovered.

The researchers are hopeful that the newly identified loci, along with the 10 previously identified, may help further our understanding of the aetiology of colorectal cancers.


  1. Houlston, R. et al. Meta-analysis of three genome-wide association studies identifies susceptibility loci for colorectal cancer at 1q41, 3q26.2, 12q13.13 and 20q13.33. Nature Genetics 42, 973-977 (2010) | Article | PubMed