Background: The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) represents a subset of colorectal cancers characterized by widespread aberrant DNA hypermethylation at select CpG islands. The risk factors and environmental exposures contributing to etiologic heterogeneity between CIMP and non-CIMP tumors are not known. Methods: We measured the CIMP status of 3,119 primary population-based colorectal cancer tumors from the multinational Colon Cancer Family Registry. Etiologic heterogeneity was assessed by a case-case study comparing risk factor frequency of colorectal cancer cases with CIMP and non-CIMP tumors using logistic regression to estimate the case-case odds ratio (ccOR). Results: We found associations between tumor CIMP status and MSI-H (ccOR = 7.6), BRAF V600E mutation (ccOR = 59.8), proximal tumor site (ccOR = 9; all P < 0.0001), female sex [ccOR = 1.8; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.5-2.1], older age (ccOR = 4.0 comparing over 70 years vs. under 50; 95% CI, 3.0-5.5), and family history of CRC (ccOR= 0.6; 95% CI, 0.5-0.7). While use of NSAIDs varied by tumor CIMP status for both males and females (P = 0.0001 and P = 0.02, respectively), use of multivitamin or calcium supplements did not. Only for female colorectal cancer was CIMP status associated with increased pack-years of smoking (Ptrend < 0.001) and body mass index (BMI; Ptrend = 0.03). Conclusions: The frequency of several colorectal cancer risk factors varied by CIMP status, and the associations of smoking and obesity with tumor subtype were evident only for females. Impact: Differences in the associations of a unique DNA methylation-based subgroup of colorectal cancer with important lifestyle and environmental exposures increase understanding of the molecular pathologic epidemiology of this heavily methylated subset of colorectal cancer.
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