Washington: Colon cancer may be caused by the loss of a hormone called guanylin, a study said, suggesting hormone replacement therapy could stall its formation.
Some cancers, like breast and prostate cancer, are driven by hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, but till date, there are none that are driven by the lack of a hormone.
New evidence suggests that human colon cells may become cancerous when they lose the ability to produce a hormone that helps the cells maintain normal biology.
"The fact that the vast majority of cancers stop producing this hormone leads us to believe that guanylin may be driving the growth of the tumours," said Scott Waldman, a professor at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, US.
"If confirmed, we could prevent colon cancer by giving patients hormone replacement therapy with guanylin," stressed Waldman.
The researchers examined colon cancer samples from 281 patients and compared those tissues to nearby colon tissue that was not cancerous.
They found that guanylin production decreased 100 to 1,000 times in more than 85 percent of colon cancers tested.
People over age 50 produced much less of the hormone in their normal colon cells, which may help explain the increase in colon cancer risk in older individuals, found the team.
"The next step is to test whether hormone replacement can prevent colon cancer development and/or growth in mice, which could then be followed by tests in humans," concluded Waldman.
The research appeared in the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.