Genetic variants and traits in metabolic signaling pathways may interact with lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical activity, and exogenous estrogen (E), influencing postmenopausal colorectal cancer (CRC) risk, but these interrelated pathways are not fully understood. In this case-cohort study, we examined 33 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes related to insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I)/ insulin resistance (IR) traits and signaling pathways, using data from 704 postmenopausal women in Women’s Health Initiative Observation ancillary studies. Stratifying by the lifestyle modifiers, we assessed the effects of IGF-I/ IR traits (fasting total and free IGF-I, IGF binding protein-3, insulin, glucose, and homeostatic model assessment–insulin resistance) on CRC risk as a mediator or influencing factor. Six SNPs in the INS, IGF-I, and IGFBP3 genes were associated with CRC risk, and those associations differed between non-obese/active and obese/inactive women and between E nonusers and users. Roughly 30% of the cancer risk due to the SNP was mediated by IGF-I/ IR traits. Likewise, carriers of 11 SNPs in the IRS1 and AKT1/2 genes (signaling pathway–related genetic variants) had different associations with CRC risk between strata, and the proportion of the SNP–cancer association explained by traits varied from 30% to 50%. Our findings suggest that IGF-I/IR genetic variants interact with obesity, physical activity, and exogenous E, altering postmenopausal CRC risk, through IGF-I/IR traits, but also through different pathways. Unraveling gene–phenotype–lifestyle interactions will provide data on potential genetic targets in clinical trials for cancer prevention and intervention strategies to reduce CRC risk.
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