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Scientists Discover Gene That Protects Against Colon Cancer

Scientists have discovered a gene that they say decreases the risk of developing colon cancer. The finding is the result of a study looking at genes associated with colon cancer risk. VOA's Jessica Berman reports.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago and the University of Alabama were looking for biological markers, or defective genes, they can use in a blood test to determine whether someone is likely to develop colon cancer.

Investigators conducted two studies involving 600 people with colon cancer and 800 people without the disease.

Boris Pasche is part of the team looking for defective genes or risk factors that increase a person's likelihood of developing colon cancer.

"What we have found is a region of a gene that is associated with colorectal cancer risk," he said.

The gene produces a protein that stimulates fat cells to manufacture a hormone called adiponectin. Obesity has been linked to colon cancer.

While studies have suggested that high blood levels of the hormone could predict who will get colon cancer, this latest study for the first time links a specific gene to colon cancer risk.

Researchers also found that a variation of the adiponectin gene makes some people less likely to develop the disease. "The degree of decreased risk was approximately thirty percent decreased risk," he said.

Pasche says researchers are optimistic they will be able to develop a test for colon cancer.

"It is our hope that we will be able to offer early screening to individuals who are at risk so we will be able to keep this disease from developing," he said.

The results of the study on colon cancer gene are published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.