Lifestyle influences cancer risk more than genetics, according to a novel predictive risk model for colon and rectal cancer that combines both genetic and lifestyle information. The risk model was developed by the Colorectal Cancer research group of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, led by Víctor Moreno, PhD, in association with the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona, and the Epidemiology and Public Health (CIBEResp).1

Dr Moreno, head of the Catalan Institute of Oncology’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program and professor at the University of Barcelona, explains that the model was developed using data from the 10,106 participants included in the MCC-Spain Spanish multicenter study, performed by CIBEResp researchers.

All participants were interviewed to assess known risk factors such as diet, physical exercise, body mass index, alcohol use, and family history of cancer. Blood tests were performed on 1336 patients with colorectal cancer and 2744 control patients to determine genetic predisposition to colon and rectal cancer. The team calculated that changes to risky lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy weight, could compensate for having 4 genetic risk factors (risk alleles).

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“This is important, considering that lifestyle, unlike genetic traits, is somewhat modifiable, while genetic susceptibility is inherited from our parents”, said Dr Gemma Ibáñez, a digestologist and researcher on the study.

Dr Moreno added that, “Today, screening for colon cancer in patients with no family history is based solely on age. If we include information about lifestyle and genetics, we could classify the population into groups of greater or lesser risk, which would allow us to offer a more personalized follow-up.” The group is presently working on another study to assess social perceptions about genetic screening.


1. Ibanez-Sanz G, Diez-Villanueva A, Alonso MH, et al. Risk model for colorectal cancer in spanish population using environmental and genetic factors: results from the MCC-Spain study. Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 24. doi: 10.1038/srep43263 [Epub ahead of print]