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Colorectal cancer in New Zealand: The convergence of epigenetics and the environment

Researcher profiles:
Tyler McInnes

Environmental impact evident

It is clear that a large part of colorectal cancer (CRC) risk comes from the environment. This impact is no more evident than in New Zealand which has the highest CRC incidence rates in the developed world.

Epigenetics mediates environmental effects on cancer risk

Epigenetic changes are additions to the DNA which do not change the sequence of a gene but do alter the levels at which the gene is expressed in a cell. If these expression levels are out of a normal range, they increase cancer risk. There is a growing body of evidence that environmental effects may be mediated by epigenetics.

Data suggests impact on colorectal cancer

We have new ground-breaking molecular, and epidemiological data strongly suggesting that major shifts in the incidence of CRC in New Zealand are mediated by distinct changes to the genome via epigenetics.

These findings, if confirmed, and extended by this research, will provide a new foundation for understanding the role of the environment in the onset of CRC, not only in NZ but worldwide. This will lead to new strategies to decrease the incidence of CRC, and may also serve as a model for other diseases that are strongly influenced by the environment.

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