Published online Sep 7, 2016. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i33.7389
Peer-review started: April 19, 2016
First decision: May 12, 2016
Revised: June 10, 2016
Accepted: August 1, 2016
Article in press: August 1, 2016
Published online: September 7, 2016
Colorectal cancer is a major global cause of morbidity and mortality. Current strategies employed to increase detection of early, curable stages of this disease are contributing to a reduction of the negative health impact from it. While there is a genetic component to the risk of disease, diet and environment are known to have major effects on the risk of an individual for developing the disease. However, there is the potential to reduce the impact of this disease further by preventing disease development. Biomarkers which can either predict the risk for or early stages of colorectal cancer could allow intervention at a time when prospects could be modified by environmental factors, including lifestyle and diet choices. Thus, such biomarkers could be used to identify high risk individuals who would benefit from lifestyle and dietary interventions to prevent this disease. This review will give an overview on one type of biomarker in the form of microRNAs, which have the potential to predict an individual’s risk for colorectal cancer, as well as providing a highly sensitive and non-invasive warning of disease presence and/or progression. MicroRNA biomarkers which have been studied and whose levels look promising for this purpose include MiR-18a, MiR-21, MiR-92a, MiR-135b, MiR-760, MiR-601. Not only have several individual microRNAs appeared promising as biomarkers, but panels of these may be even more useful. Furthermore, understanding dietary sources and ways of dietary modulation of these microRNAs might be fruitful in reducing the incidence and slowing the progression of colorectal cancer.
Core tip: The requirements for colonoscopic technologies in order to detect early stages of colorectal cancer are being superseded by highly sensitive microRNA technologies using various body fluids. As well as providing early warnings of the disease, these also potentially provide a highly sensitive marker of dietary efficacy in disease prevention or slowing of disease progression.