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(Boston, Mass.) — Women with high bone mass may be at a decreased risk of developing colon cancer as compared with women with low bone mass, according to researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). The study, which recently appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests that this association may be the result of greater estrogen exposure in women with increased bone mass. This is the first study to examine the effect of cumulative estrogen exposure on colon cancer risk.
Using data on 1,394 Massachusetts women in the Framingham Study who underwent hand radiography in 1967-1970, the researchers examined the association between bone mass and colon cancer incidence. Comparing the metacarpal bone mass in middle-aged and elderly women the researchers found women with the highest bone mass were half as likely to develop colon cancer than those women with the lowest mass.
“The result of this population-based study suggests that bone mass in middle-aged and elderly women is a predictor for colon cancer,” said lead author Yuqing Zhang, MPH, DSc, an assistant professor of medicine and public health at BUSM. “Although the biological mechanisms linking bone mass to the risk of colon cancer are not fully understood, cumulative exposure to estrogen may play a role,” he added.