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1319
Rectal Epithelial Proliferation in Persons with or
without a History of Adenoma and Its Association
with Diet and Lifestyle Habits
Paul Rozen, M.B. B.S.1
Flora Lubin, M.Sc.1
Naomi Papo, R.N.1
Gershom Zajicek, M.D.2
1
Department of Gastroenterology, Tel Aviv Medical Center, Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv
University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
2
H. Humphrey Center for Experimental Medicine
and Cancer Research, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.
Presented as a poster at the annual meeting of the
American Gastroenterological Association, Washington, DC, May 11–17, 1997; and published in
abstract form in: Rozen P, Lubin F, Papo N, Farbstein H, Farbstein N, Zejicek G. Association of diet
and lifestyle habits with rectal epithelial proliferation measurements in persons with or without
colorectal adenomas. Gastroenterology 1997;112:
A647.
Drs. Rozen and Lubin were supported by a grant
from the National Council for Research and Development, Israel and the German Cancer Research
Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg (in collaboration with Dr.
H. Boeing).
The authors thank Ms. S. Zimmerman for secretarial assistance, Ms. V. Liberman and Ms. J.
Knaani for data and patient management, and H.
and M. Farbstein (ICRF) for statistical analysis.
Address for reprints: Paul Rozen, M.B., B.S., Department of Gastroenterology, Tel Aviv Medical
Center, 6 Weizmann Street, Tel Aviv 64239, Israel.
Received September 15, 1997; revision received
January 14, 1998; accepted March 18, 1998.
© 1998 American Cancer Society
BACKGROUND. Rectal epithelial proliferation (REP) measurements are used as a
biomarker of risk for colorectal neoplasia and response to chemoprevention. The
authors evaluated REP in screenees with and without a history of adenoma and its
association with demographic and adenoma characteristics, diet, and other lifestyle habits.
METHODS. Long term lifestyle habits were evaluated and proliferation assessed by
in vitro bromodeoxyuridine labeling of rectal biopsies in 223 screenees, 132 of
whom had adenomas removed . 3 years previously. Analyses included the total
population, screenees with a previous history of adenomas and adenoma free
screenees separately, and a subgroup of 55 matched adenoma cases and controls.
RESULTS. Crypt proliferation measurements were not elevated in screenees with a
history of adenomas compared with adenoma free screenees (mean total labeling
index [LI] of 4.8% and 4.9%, respectively). This was confirmed by the case-control
analysis, in which the LI of the most superficial crypt compartment was lower in
the adenoma cases (P 5 0.05). Moreover, their total LI correlated negatively with
the number of adenomas removed previously (P , 0.01). Proliferation was more
frequent in the most superficial crypt compartments of female adenoma free
screenees than in female screenees with a history of adenomas (P 5 0.02), and in
men age . 65 years compared with younger men (P 5 0.06). In the total population, negative Spearman rank correlations were found between total LI and long
term dietary intake of calcium (correlation coefficient [r] 5 20.15; P 5 0.02), LI of
the two most superficial crypt compartments and intake of fiber (r 5 2 0.18; P 5
0.01), water (r 5 20.12; P 5 0.08), and carbohydrates (not significant). A positive
correlation was found between LI of the most superficial crypt compartment and
cigarette smoking (r 5 0.4; P 5 0.02).
CONCLUSIONS. REP measurements did not discriminate between screenees with a
history of adenomas and adenoma free screenees. Long-term lifestyle habits,
gender, and age were associated with REP levels and need to be considered when
evaluating human intervention studies. Cancer 1998;83:1319 –27.
© 1998 American Cancer Society.
KEYWORDS: adenoma, chemoprevention, colorectal, diet, family history, lifestyle
habits, proliferation.
M
easurements of colonic epithelial proliferation are believed to be
elevated in persons at risk for or who have colorectal neoplasia.1–5 In addition, they have been useful biomarkers for following the
effects of chemoprevention or nutritional intervention in animal experiments, in which there is full control over confounding factors
such as genetic strain, gender, age, and diet.2,6 In humans, some
interventional studies have shown that short term dietary changes or
1320
CANCER October 1, 1998 / Volume 83 / Number 7
dietary supplements had an effect on the rectal epithelial proliferation (REP) and these are believed to
reflect similar changes throughout the entire colon.2,7–9 However, other intervention studies in humans were not always successful in demonstrating
such a response in REP.10,11 This possibly was due to
the difficulty in controlling for the confounding influences on proliferation of genetic predisposition for
neoplasia, age, gender, diet, and other lifestyle habits
of the normal adult.12–14
There have been only a few studies in humans
examining and demonstrating the effects of dietary
and other lifestyle habits on REP measurements.1,2,4,5,15–17 For this reason, within the framework
of an adenoma case– control nutrition and lifestyle
study,18 we examined the REP measurements in cases
who had adenomas in the past and in controls who
consistently were adenoma free. We also examined
the associations between dietary and other lifestyle
habits with REP in the total group and its study populations.
degree relative with colorectal neoplasia were not included in the current study.
There were 196 adenoma cases and matched controls who fulfilled the inclusion criteria and agreed to
participate in the case– control study.18 Of these, 132
adenoma cases (67.3%) also agreed to participate in
the evaluation of their REP. None had adenomas at
this time. After excluding controls with a family history
of colorectal neoplasia, 91 of the adenoma free
screenees (46.4%) also fulfilled the entry criteria for
this part of the study and agreed to participate in the
evaluation of their REP.
STUDY POPULATION AND METHODS
Rectal Epithelial Proliferation
Study Population
REP was assessed in rectal biopsies taken between 8
and 10 A.M. in the nonfasting state, and without bowel
preparation. This technique and the immunohistochemical method used have been described in detail
elsewhere.21 In summary, by guiding flexible endoscopic forceps under the index finger inserted into the
rectum, 3 pinch biopsies were taken from each individual, 8 –10 cm from the anal verge. Under a dissecting microscope the specimens were oriented mucosal
side up on a membrane filter. They then were incubated in Eagle’s medium with bromodeoxyuridine
(BrdU), from the Amersham proliferation kit (Amersham, Buckinghamshire, U.K.), at 37 °C for 1 hour in a
hyperbaric chamber containing 95% oxygen and 5%
carbon dioxide under 1 added atmosphere pressure.
The ethanol fixed specimens then were carefully
reoriented, paraffin blocks prepared, and sections cut.
Every consecutive five sections were excluded systematically to obtain samples of different crypts on at least
four slides. Sections were dewaxed and rehydrated
through graded ethanols. After DNA denaturation with
hydrochloric acid (which was neutralized), and the
addition of normal sheep serum, the Amersham kit
monoclonal antibody was used for the immunohistochemistry to reveal nuclei that had taken up the BrdU.
These were intensified by dipping in diaminobenzidine with NiCl2 and the slides were counterstained
weakly with hematoxylin and mounted.
The biopsies were coded and evaluated twice by a
single experienced technician who was blinded to the
Our population was comprised of 223 urban adults
who participated in the nutrition-adenoma case– control study.18 These included all the consecutive adenoma patients identified in the Screening Program of
the Gastroenterology Department at the Tel Aviv Medical Center19 who had been followed for at least 3 years
by repeated colonoscopic examinations. Our follow-up protocol, after clearing the colon of polyps,
included repeated colonoscopic examinations after 1
year and then every 2 years to prove that the colon was
free of adenomas or to determine whether recurrence
had occurred.19,20 The controls were asymptomatic
adenoma free screenees, matched to cases by age (6 5
years), gender, country of origin, and duration of follow-up ($ 3 years) in the screening program. All controls had been screened by annual fecal occult blood
tests and a flexible sigmoidoscopic examination that
had been repeated at least twice, after 1 year and then
every 2 years.19,20 No adenoma ever was detected in
the controls. All pathology specimens were reviewed
by one pathologist and classified by standard criteria
as part of an ongoing study of colorectal polyps.19 The
inclusion criteria for the nutrition-adenoma case–
control study were: ages 21–75 years, adenoma size $
0.5 cm; systematic follow-up that included the endoscopic and fecal occult blood examinations; and medical status (no history of malignancy, inflammatory
bowel disease, or chronic disease requiring a strict diet
or use of calcium supplements). Controls with a first-
Data Collected
Data included information available from the adenoma nutrition case– control study with regard to
family history of neoplasia, dietary habits, physical
activity, height, weight, lifetime smoking habits, alcohol intake, vitamin or mineral supplementation, and
medications used.18 The site, size, number, and histology of the initial and recurrent polyps (if there were
any) was noted.
Adenomas, Diet, and Epithelial Proliferation/Rozen et al.
diagnosis of adenoma. Under a microscopic magnification of 3 500 –750, at least 15 complete longitudinal
crypts were scored with care taken not to reexamine
the same crypt. Each side of the crypt was counted
from the base (muscularis mucosa) to the surface,
recording the number of cells, the number of labeled
cells, and their position in the hemicrypt. The scoring
technique had been well established and standardized
in our laboratory with good reproducibility.22 The
scoring data for each person were recorded into a
database for statistical analysis together with the other
collected data regarding nutrition and lifestyle habits.
Diet and Lifestyle Habits
The nutritional methodology had been developed at
the Epidemiology Department, Chaim Sheba Medical
Center and is described in full elsewhere.18 Trained
interviewers conducted a standardized interview using a quantified dietary questionnaire that included
180 food items. Subjects were asked to describe for
each item the frequency and number of portions consumed and the usual portion size by natural or standard units of package, or individual portion size as
determined by life-size color photographs.
The adult population is known to change nutritional habits for health and other reasons. Therefore,
for each item, interviewers were trained to ask
whether any changes occurred in the subject’s consumption habit during the last 15 years. If yes, first the
more recent and then the long term, prechange habits
(“past” consumption) were recorded in an identical
set of columns that included the same questions as
well as the number of years since the change occurred.
For items in which no change was reported, current
habits were equivalent to past habits. This method
allowed evaluation of the “past” habits (before
changes occurred) in the same detail as for the more
“recent” ones. The results presented are based on
analysis of the long term “past” dietary habits and
their association with REP.
Physical activity was categorized using activity criteria (resting and sitting hours and time spent in light
and moderate to heavy activity) similar to those described in the Recommended Daily Allowances.23 Lifetime tobacco smoking habits were ascertained by noting the number of cigarettes currently smoked daily or
in the past, and duration of smoking. Current weight
and height, weight at age 18 years, and weight for the
majority of the subject’s adult life were recorded.
Written informed consent for the study had been
obtained from all subjects and the study was approved
by the hospital’s Ethics Committee in 1989.
1321
Data Analysis and Statistical Evaluation
An adenoma score was made by: size( 0.5– 0.9 cm 5 1;
and $ 1.0 cm 5 2) and histology (tubular 5 1; villotubular 5 2; villous 5 3; and high grade dysplasia 5 4)
for each adenoma detected.
Analysis of REP parameters included: mean numbers (6 standard deviation) of hemicrypts counted,
cells per hemicrypt, and BrdU-labeled cells per hemicrypt. A mean total labeling index (LI) was computed
of the ratio of labeled to total number of crypt cells. In
addition, each hemicrypt was divided into 5 equally
sized compartments (from base to surface) and the
mean LI in each compartment, and then the LI of 2
most superficial compartments (upper 40%), also were
evaluated. Calculations also were made of the ratio of
the number of labeled cells in the upper 40% of the
crypts to the total number of labeled cells (Øh4&5),24 or
to the number of hemicrypts counted (Lh4&5) (M. Lipkin, personal communication), or of having any labeled cells in the most superficial compartment.2,3
Three levels of LI (low, intermediate, and high) also
were determined according to the distribution of LI
values for the total population.
Reported food consumption was converted into
average daily amounts consumed. A comprehensive
computer program contained information regarding
food composition from international and local sources
and took into account seasonal fruits and vegetables.25,26 The program converted all frequencies and
portion sizes to mean daily, long term, past consumption. For some calculations, three levels of intake (low,
medium, and high) were determined based on the
distribution of intake by the total population, the adenoma cases, and the adenoma-free screenees.
Physical activity was converted to mean daily active hours and an “activity score” computed for each
individual. This was comprised of the number of daily
hours spent in moderate to heavy activity and half of
the light activity hours.18,23 Weight and weight gain
from age 18 years to adulthood were analyzed as such
and by body mass index (BMI). Tobacco use was assessed for present and past smokers by a score based
on the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day 3
365 3 number of years smoking. The number, size,
and histology of each adenoma detected was recorded.
Statistical analyses were performed both on the
total population and on the adenoma cases and adenoma free screenees separately. Conditional logistic
analysis, adjusting for physical activity and energy intake, was performed in a subgroup of 55 adenoma
cases and 55 adenoma free screenees, matched by age
(6 5 years), gender, country of origin, and duration of
1322
CANCER October 1, 1998 / Volume 83 / Number 7
TABLE 1
Distribution of the Total Study Population (n5223) by Diagnosis,
Demographic, and Rectal Epithelial Proliferation Data
No.
Men (%)
European origin (%)
Age (yrs) (mean 6 SD)
Family history of colorectal
carcinoma (%)
No. hemicrypts counted
(mean 6 SD)
No. cells/hemicrypts
(mean 6 SD)
No. labeled cells/hemicrypt
(mean 6 SD)
LI 3 100 (mean 6 SD)
LI/compartment 3 100
(mean 6 SD)
Compartment 1
2
3
4
5
Adenoma
cases
Adenoma free
screenees
132
60.6a
61.4
61.3 6 8.1
91
45.1a
60.0
63.5 6 6.3
33.3
0b
29.9 6 4.8
30.3 6 4.6
53.5 6 6.7
51.9 6 6.4
2.54 6 1.10
4.8 6 1.8
2.53 6 1.08
4.9 6 1.9
7.1 6 3.2
8.5 6 3.3
5.7 6 3.2
2.2 6 1.8
0.2 6 0.4a
7.3 6 2.9
8.8 6 3.5
5.8 6 3.3
2.3 6 1.8
0.3 6 0.5a
SD: standard deviation; LI: labeling index.
a
P , 0.05.
b
Excluded by inclusion criteria.
follow-up in the screening program.27,28 Spearman
correlation coefficients were evaluated between the
various measurements of REP and each of the dietary
and lifestyle habits. To examine whether having a
family history of colorectal neoplasia influenced the
results, the analyses were repeated excluding those
pairs with adenoma cases having a positive family
history.
RESULTS
Demographic Characteristics
There were 223 subjects in the total population studied and, consistent with the screened population of
Tel Aviv, the majority were of European origin entering their sixth decade of life. The demographic characteristics of the adenoma cases and adenoma free
screenees in the study population are presented in
Table 1. There were relatively more women in the
adenoma free screenees because fewer healthy men
agreed to have their REP assessed (P , 0.05). Fortyfour of the adenoma cases (33.3%) had a first-degree
relative with colorectal neoplasia; because of the study
inclusion criteria there were no adenoma free
screenees with a positive family history.
REP Characteristics of the Study Population
In the 132 adenoma cases, Spearman correlation coefficients were examined between the various parameters of proliferation and the adenoma characteristics:
their number in each case, maximum size, sum of
sizes, and a score that included these data and histology (data not shown). No significant positive correlations were found. Unexpectedly, a significant negative
correlation was found between the total number of
adenomas removed and the mean total LI measurement (correlation coefficient [r] 520.23; P , 0.01).
The proliferation characteristics of the adenoma
cases and adenoma free screenees (Table 1) were not
significantly different, other than in Compartment 5.
In Compartment 5 the adenoma cases had significantly less (P , 0.05) proliferation than the adenoma
free screenees.
To further explore these findings, we performed a
conditional logistic analysis on 55 matched adenoma
cases and controls, adjusting for energy intake and
physical activity. Results of this analysis showed a
significantly negative association between risk for adenoma and level of proliferation (LI) in Compartment
5 (odds ratio 5 0.37; 95% confidence interval, 0.14 –
0.99; P 5 0.05). However, no risk was associated with
the total crypt LI or any other measure of crypt proliferation.
Analyses also were performed by gender within
and between the adenoma cases and adenoma free
screenees. Female adenoma patients were less likely
to have any proliferation in Compartment 5 compared
with female adenoma free screenees (23.1% vs. 44.0%;
P 5 0.02). Analysis then was made comparing the
combined male and female populations from each
study population and there were no significant differences in proliferation parameters between genders.
The effect of age was evaluated as well. Men age . 65
years of age were more likely to have proliferation
occurring in Compartment 5 than those age , 65 years
(45.8% vs. 30.0%; P 5 0.06).
The differences in proliferation measurements between past adenoma cases and adenoma free screenees
were not consistent with increased epithelial proliferation in adenoma cases. Differences based on gender or
age were limited to Compartment 5.29 Therefore, further
analyses were performed for the total population as well
as for the adenoma patients and adenoma free screenees
separately.
Diet and Other Lifestyle Habits and REP in the Total
Population
The significant associations of dietary and other
lifestyle habits with the REP parameters of the total
Adenomas, Diet, and Epithelial Proliferation/Rozen et al.
TABLE 2
Significant Spearman Correlation Coefficients between Long-Term
Dietary and Other Lifestyle Habits and Rectal Epithelial Proliferation
Measurements in the Total Population (n 5 223)
Parameters measured
Total labelling index:
Calcium
LI Compartments 4
and 5:
Fiber
LI Compartment 5:
Tobacco smokers’
score (n 5 32)
Correlation coefficient
P value
20.15
0.02
20.18
0.01
0.40
0.02
LI: labeling index.
population are presented in Table 2. Increased nutritional intake of calcium was negatively correlated
with the mean total LI (P 5 0.02) and a similar
finding was observed for fiber, but limited to combined Compartments 4 and 5 (P 5 0.01). Trends in
the same direction were found with both water and
carbohydrate intakes and LI levels in combined
Compartments 4 and 5 (data not shown) (r 5 20.12,
P 5 0.08; and r 5 20.11, P 5 0.11, respectively). No
significant correlations were observed with mean
daily energy or fat intake or physical activity and any
measurements of REP, but a nonsignificant negative
correlation between weight gain through adult life
and LI was found in combined Compartments 4 and
5 (data not shown) (r 5 20.11, P 5 0.13). The total
amount of cigarettes smoked was significantly and
positively correlated with the LI of Compartment 5
(P 5 0.02).
To further evaluate the quantitative effect of
calcium intake on REP we studied the percentage of
individuals consuming the highest and lowest
amounts of calcium by their levels of total LI (Table
3). Among those in the highest tertile of calcium
consumption ($ 1027 mg/day), there was a significantly lower percentage of individuals within the
highest tertile of LI levels (P 5 0.01); conversely,
among the lower calcium consumers, a lower percentage of individuals was observed in the lowest
tertile of LI levels. There was a significantly decreasing linear trend for total LI among individuals in the
higher level of calcium intake (P 5 0.01). The same
results were obtained after adjusting for energy intake (P for linear trend 5 0.004). A nonsignificant
trend, in the same direction, was observed with fiber
(data not shown).
1323
Dietary and Other Lifestyle Habits and REP by Adenoma
Status
Among adenoma free screenees, the intake of fiber
was significantly negatively correlated with the total LI
(P 5 0.02) (Table 4). In the adenoma cases, this negative association was limited to the combined crypt
Compartments 4 and 5 (P 5 0.03).
Negative but nonsignificant correlations between
calcium intake and total LI were observed in both the
adenoma free screenees and adenoma cases (data not
shown) (r 5 20.17, P 5 0.1; and r 5 20.13, P 5 0.1,
respectively). No significant correlations were found
between energy or fat intake or level of physical activity and measurements of proliferation in either group.
There was a negative correlation between weight gain
during adult life and LI in combined Compartments 4
and 5 of the adenoma cases (data not shown) (r 5
20.18, P 5 0.05), but not in the adenoma free
screenees.
In the adenoma cases, there was a significantly
negative correlation (P , 0.01) between the LI of combined Compartments 4 and 5 and being a nontobacco
smoker or past smoker (n 5 79).
Family History
We repeated the analyses after excluding the adenoma
cases with a family history of colorectal neoplasia. The
results were fully consistent with the original findings
and statistical significance was maintained.
DISCUSSION
The main findings in this large study were the lack of
major differences in REP measurements between persons having had an adenoma .3 years previously,
with or without a family history of colorectal neoplasia, and adenoma free individuals without this family
history. This was not consistent with expectations that
persons at risk for colorectal carcinoma would have
persistently increased proliferation (a “field effect”) in
the normal-appearing rectal epithelium.1,3
In addition, we found associations between certain dietary and lifestyle habits with REP measurements. In the adenoma-nutritional case– control study
(which included this same population), numerous dietary and lifestyle factors were evaluated.18 The main
risk factors for adenoma found in that study included:
lower carbohydrate, increased animal fat, reduced water and fiber, and increased energy intake; weight
gain; reduced physical activity; and cigarette smoking.
Therefore, their associations with REP measurements
were examined specifically in addition to numerous
other lifestyle habits. Although calcium intake had not
been found to be associated with adenoma in our
1324
CANCER October 1, 1998 / Volume 83 / Number 7
TABLE 3
Joint Distribution of Long-Term Calcium Intake (2 Levels) and 3 Levels of Total LI in the Total Population
(n 5 223)
% of population by tertiles of LI%
Level of calcium intake/day
No.
Low
< 3.8
Intermediate
3.8–5.2
High
> 5.2
P valuea
Lowest and intermediate
tertiles (, 1027 mg)
Highest tertile ($ 1027 mg)
152
71
27.0
46.5
36.2
28.2
36.8
25.8
0.01
LI: labeling index.
a
Mantel–Haenszel chi-square test for linear trend (P 5 0.004).
TABLE 4
Significant Spearman Correlation Coefficients between Long-Term
Dietary and Other Lifestyle Habits and Rectal Epithelial Proliferation
Measurements of Each Study Group in the Total Population
Adenoma cases
(n 5 132)
Parameter measured
Total LI:
Fiber
LI Compartments 4 and 5:
Fiber
Nonsmokers & past
tobacco smokers
(n 5 79)
Adenoma free
screenees (n 5 91)
Correlation
coefficient
P value
Correlation
coefficient
P value
0.07
NS
20.24
0.02
20.19
0.03
20.16
NS
20.31
, 0.01
0.06
NS
LI: labeling index; NS: not significant.
nutritional case– control study,18 we examined its association with REP as part of the calcium intervention
trial that also was being performed.20
Limitations and Strengths of the Study
We attempted to find reasons to explain the relatively
low REP measurements in our population and the lack
of REP differences between our past adenoma cases
and the adenoma free screenees.
The use of hyperbaric oxygen ensured uniform
tissue labeling with BrdU which, in contrast to proliferating cell nuclear antigen, easily is recognized and
scored.2,21 Measurements of proliferation are lower in
the rectum than in the colon; nevertheless, they have
been accepted, at least qualitatively, to reflect the
epithelial proliferation throughout the colon.30,31
However, in many other studies the samples were
taken during endoscopy, whereas in our study they
were taken during unprepared digital rectal examination and most likely taken closer to the anus than in
the other reports. Even so, a study of a U. S. popula-
tion, using biopsies taken from the unprepared rectum and without using hyperbaric oxygen, demonstrated higher levels of REP than found in the current
study.32 These different results may very well reflect
differences in diet between the U. S. population and
ours, namely that our population consumes fewer calories from animal fat, less beef and alcohol, and more
calcium.6,18,33 Because the REP was measured a significant amount of time (.3 years) after the initial adenoma detection and removal, the patients may have
become more health conscious and changed their diet
and other lifestyle habits. We took this into account in
the analysis of their diet and other lifestyle habits by
our evaluation of both their past and recent lifestyle
habits.18 However, we cannot exclude the possibility
that the REP changed since adenoma diagnosis and
removal.
Another criticism is that our adenoma free
screenees were not examined routinely by colonoscopy. Their repeatedly negative sigmoidoscopic examinations and annual fecal occult blood tests strongly
suggested that they were free of adenomas and that
misclassification was very unlikely. Based on a multicenter report of screening in Israel and a previous
study of asymptomatic screenees with a normal sigmoidoscopic examination followed by colonoscopy,
we estimate that 2 of our 91 adenoma free screenees
might have harbored undetected proximal adenomas.34,35
The main strength of this study is its detailed
analysis of long term diet and lifestyle habits and the
REP measurements in the same population. We did
not find increased REP in the past adenoma cases
compared with the adenoma free screenees or by using a case– control analysis. This allowed us to evaluate the association between diet and lifestyle habits
with the REP of all the examined population. In addition, we deliberately excluded from the study adenoma free screenees with a family history of colorectal
Adenomas, Diet, and Epithelial Proliferation/Rozen et al.
carcinoma to eliminate any additional risk influencing
their REP measurements.2 After excluding the adenoma cases with a positive family history, the results
were unchanged.
History of Adenoma and REP Characteristics
We did not find increased REP in the past adenoma
cases compared with the adenoma free screenees.
These results were not affected by the number, size, or
histologic type of the adenomas. In fact, REP measurements in Compartment 5 showed the opposite: a decreased level in adenoma cases.
Some other studies did find higher proliferation
measurements in persons with hyperplastic polyps
only.36 Our study was not designed to address the
relation between having hyperplastic polyps only
and REP measurements in flat rectal mucosa. We had
only two adenoma free screenees recorded as having
only these polyps and their REP measurements were
not significantly different from the other screenees.
There are descriptions of lower REP measurements in
patients with small adenomas compared with those
with large adenomas.30,36 –38 Like us, other authors did
not find a significant difference, nor any association
with numbers of adenomas or histologic type,5,39 Risio
et al. found that the REP was lower in cases in whom
the adenoma was removed $ 2 years previously.37
They did not address the possibility that it was due to
a change in lifestyle. We could not evaluate this because the entry criteria for our study required a duration of .3 years since polypectomy and measurement
of REP. We took no measurements at the time of
polypectomy.
The issue of whether increased proliferation is
found in the normal-appearing large bowel mucosa
of adenoma or colon carcinoma patients also has
been addressed in recent publications.40 – 42 These
authors did not detect significant differences in REP
using direct microscopy or computer image analysis
or in examining isolated crypts, and this is consistent with our own previous studies.3,29 In contrast,
other authors did find such differences, but they
were not always marked.2,5,36 –38,43,44 Many of these
studies had small numbers of cases or controls
and/or were not gender- or age-matched or controlled for other confounding variables such as diet
and lifestyle habits. This topic also was recently
reviewed by Jass et al.45 who reached a similar conclusion, namely that diffuse colonic epithelial hyperproliferation is not necessarily present in persons at risk for colorectal neoplasia.
1325
Diet, Lifestyle and REP Characteristics
Our results are in concordance with the limited
amount of literature showing that human diet and
other lifestyle habits influence REP.4,5,15–17
In a previous study, we did not find differences in
REP in healthy screenees of European versus nonEuropean origin, but did find urban-rural differences
that might have been explained by differing dietary
and other habits.29 In the current study the population
was all urban. In North America, studies of SeventhDay Adventists showed that they had significantly less
colonic epithelial proliferative activity than persons
who previously had sporadic adenomas or familial
colon carcinoma. This was attributed to their different
dietary habits, lifestyle, and genetic risk.4,15 In a more
recent study, also in Seventh-Day Adventists and other
selected whites, a significantly negative association
was found between their calcium intake and REP after
controlling for age, gender, BMI, dietary fat, and energy intake.16 A significantly positive association was
found between their BMI and REP and positive, but
nonsignificant, associations were found for total energy intake and female gender. In a study of vegetarians in the U. K. the total LI of their rectal epithelial
crypts was the same as that of adenoma free controls.5
A study of mitotic activity in the rectal epithelium of
minimally symptomatic persons living in two distinct
geographic areas of Italy showed that both their mitotic activity and dietary habits were significantly different with a higher intake of protein, fiber, starches,
and nitrites found among those with the highest level
of proliferation.17 However, multivariate logistic regression analysis did not confirm the occurrence of
significant associations.
In contrast to a defined population maintaining a
specific diet and lifestyle, our study group’s habits
were those of a free-living, asymptomatic population.
Nevertheless, the number of cells per crypt was similar
to that described in Seventh-Day Adventists,4 indicating that the rectal epithelium of our population was
relatively “quiescent.”15 The most significant finding
was the negative associations of REP with both calcium and fiber intake, indicating their influence in
suppressing proliferative cells from reaching the crypt
surface. This confirms the findings of Morgan and
Singh16 and is in accord with some clinical observations and chemoprevention studies.2 Tobacco smoking also was significantly and positively associated
with the degree of REP in the most superficial crypt
compartment. This is consistent with epidemiologic
studies showing that tobacco smoking is a risk factor
for adenoma.18 The negative correlation between
1326
CANCER October 1, 1998 / Volume 83 / Number 7
weight gain and some REP measurements in the adenoma patients was unexplained.
10.
REP, Diet, and Adenoma Etiology
We could not show that REP measurements discriminated between past adenoma patients and adenoma
free individuals. However, some demographic factors
such as age and gender (but not family history of
sporadic colorectal neoplasia) as well as diet and lifestyle habits were found to influence REP. Therefore,
intervention studies in patients with a history of adenoma using REP as a biomarker should recognize the
limitations of this biomarker in humans and take diet,
lifestyle, and demographic variables into account as
potential confounding factors.2,12–14
Many of these lifestyle associations that were
found with REP are consistent with epidemiologic
data related to adenoma etiology.18 This suggests that
they may have influenced the normal-appearing rectal
mucosa in the preneoplastic period. Therefore, subject to a further local influence, possibly genetic or
genotoxic, these long term lifestyle habits could provide the milieu for the stepwise progression to future
adenoma formation or growth.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
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