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Secondary bile acids produced by the action of the colonic microflora may increase risk of colorectal cancer. Serum bile acid concentrations reflect the faecal bile acid profile and may be of value as biomarkers of risk of colorectal cancer. In a pilot investigation we examined: (i) the reproducibility of measurements of serum bile acids in two blood samples collected several years apart; and (ii) the hypothesis that relatively high levels of secondary bile acids, particularly deoxycholic acid, would be positively associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer in a prospective study of 3680 women in Guernsey. There was poor reproducibility between repeat measurements of absolute serum concentrations of bile acids, but there was moderately good reproducibility for the ratios of serum concentrations of deoxycholic/cholic acid, lithocholic/chenodeoxycholic and secondary/primary bile acid concentrations (duplicate blood samples were available for 30 women). There were no significant differences in ratios of serum secondary to primary bile acids or in absolute concentrations of bile acids between the 46 women who developed colorectal cancer and their matched controls, although there was a suggestion that an increased risk was associated with a high ratio of deoxycholic/cholic acid (relative risk in top third compared to lower third=3.92 (95% CI 0.91-17.0, P for trend=0.096). These findings suggest that the ratios of serum bile acid concentrations are sufficiently reproducible for epidemiological studies, but that a larger study than our own is needed to adequately test the hypothesis of their relation to cancer risk.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1741 - 1744


Adult, Bile Acids and Salts, Biomarkers, Tumor, Colonic Neoplasms, Colorectal Neoplasms, England, Geography, Humans, Prospective Studies, Rectal Neoplasms, Reproducibility of Results, Risk Factors