Background: Smoking has been associated with colorectal cancer (CRC) risk; but limited evidence has shown the association between smoking and molecular subtypes of CRC.

Methods: We analyzed 9,422 CRC cases and 9,950 controls from 10 observational studies. Multinomial logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the association between sex-study-specific quartiles of pack years of smoking and risk of CRC molecular subtypes, using non-smokers as reference group, adjusting for age, sex, and study. Known oncogenic mutations in four somatic colorectal tumor markers were assessed individually and in combination, including BRAF mutations, KRAS mutations, CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP), and microsatellite instability (MSI) status. Case-only analysis was also performed to estimate heterogeneity in risk of molecular subtypes of CRC.

Results: Compared with controls, higher pack years of smoking were statistically significantly associated with increased CRC risk when stratified, individually, by all four markers, and the associations got stronger with higher quartiles pack years (p-trend<0.001). Associations between smoking and CRC risk also differed significantly among molecular subtypes. Compared to nonsmokers, the risk of BRAFmut CRC was 83% higher for smokers within the highest quartile of pack-years (OR=1.83; 95% CI: 1.50, 2.25), and 29% higher for BRAFwt CRC (OR=1.29; 95% CI: 1.17, 1.43; Ratio of ORs (ROR)=1.45; 95% CI: 1.18, 1.17; p=3.45x10-4). Similarly, heavy pack-years of smoking was associated with almost two times higher risk of CIMP-high CRC (OR=1.93; 95% CI: 1.60, 2.31), but only 33% higher risk of CIMP-low/negative CRC (OR=1.33; 95% CI: 1.19, 1.48; ROR=1.49; 95% CI: 1.24, 1.79; p=1.72x10-5). The association between smoking and CRC was also stronger in MSI-high tumors (ORMSI-H=1.65; 95% CI: 1.36, 2.00; ORMSI-L/MSS=1.37; 95% CI: 1.23, 1.52; ROR=1.22; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.48; p=0.046). In contrast, the association between smoking and CRC risk was stronger for KRASwt (OR=1.43; 95% CI: 1.27, 1.60), than KRASmut tumors (OR=1.18; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.37; ROR=0.83; 95% CI: 0.71, 0.97; p =0.016). When combining tumor markers, smoking was found to be significantly associated with higher risk of colorectal tumors from the serrated pathway.

Conclusion: In this largest study with a total of 19,372 subjects, we found that heavier pack years of smoking was associated with increased risk of all CRC molecular subtypes. Smokers with heavier pack-years of smoking had particularly higher risk of CRC subtypes with BRAF mutation and CIMP-high, suggesting smoking may be particularly involved in the development of these subtypes of colorectal tumor.

Citation Format: Xiaoliang Wang, Efrat Amitay, Barbara L. Banbury, Hermann Brenner, Daniel D. Buchanan, Peter T. Campbell, Jenny Chang-Claude, Steven J. Gallinger, Graham G. Giles, Tabitha A. Harrison, John L. Hopper, Mark A. Jenkins, Yi Lin, Reiko Nishihara, Polly A. Newcomb, Shuji Ogino, Lori C. Sakoda, Robert E. Schoen, Martha L. Slattery, Steven N. Thibodeau, Bethany Van Guelpen, Michael O. Woods, Li Hsu, Michael Hoffmeister, Ulrike Peters. Smoking is associated with risks of molecular subtypes of colorectal cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 630.