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Genome-Wide Association and Two-Sample Mendelian Randomization Analyses of Plasma Ghrelin and Gastrointestinal Cancer Risk.

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BACKGROUND: Observational studies have suggested that the gut hormone ghrelin is an early marker of future risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer. However, whether ghrelin is a causal risk factor remains unclear. We conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of plasma ghrelin and used Mendelian randomization (MR) to investigate the possible causal association between ghrelin and gastrointestinal cancer risk. METHODS: Genetic variants associated with plasma ghrelin were identified in a GWAS comprising 10,742 Swedish adults in the discovery (N = 6,259) and replication (N = 4,483) cohorts. The association between ghrelin and gastrointestinal cancer was examined through a two-sample MR analysis using the identified genetic variants as instruments and GWAS data from the UK Biobank, FinnGen, and a colorectal cancer consortium. RESULTS: GWAS found associations between multiple genetic variants within ±200 kb of the GHRL gene and plasma ghrelin. A two-sample MR analysis revealed that genetically predicted higher plasma ghrelin levels were associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancer in UK Biobank and in a meta-analysis of the UK Biobank and FinnGen studies. The combined OR per approximate doubling of genetically predicted plasma ghrelin was 0.91 (95% confidence interval, 0.85-0.99; P = 0.02). Colocalization analysis revealed limited evidence of shared causal variants for plasma ghrelin and gastrointestinal cancer at the GHRL locus (posterior probability H4 = 24.5%); however, this analysis was likely underpowered. CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides evidence in support of a possible causal association between higher plasma ghrelin levels and a reduced risk of gastrointestinal cancer. IMPACT: Elevated plasma ghrelin levels might reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancer.



Adult, Humans, Genome-Wide Association Study, Ghrelin, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Gastrointestinal Neoplasms, Risk Factors, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide

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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev

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American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
Wellcome Trust (100114/Z/12/Z)