While some hormones can drive some cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer, the lack of a specific hormone can likewise bring about colon cancer, which is considered by the American Cancer Society the second leading cause of mortality from cancer for both men and women, according to a new research.

The research found that colon cells in humans could become cancerous if these cells lack the ability to produce a particular hormone called guanylin, which helps these cells in maintaining a normal biology.

Guanylin triggers the GUCY2C receptor that is crucial in replenishing the skin cells lining our gut and maintaining overall function.

Before this new evidence, the lack of hormone was not found to have any association with cancer.

"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 tumors," Scott Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study, said.

Researchers from the Thomas Jefferson University studied 281 samples from colon cancer patients. They compared those cancer tissues to non-cancerous ones nearby.

Their results showed that production of guanylin lessened by 100 to 1,000 times in over 85 percent of tested colon cancers. The researchers verified the results by "staining for the guanylin hormone production in slices of the tissue samples" and found that guanylin was missing from the studied cancer samples.

They also discovered that people who are over 50 years old made much less of guanylin in their normal colon cells. Study says this could help in explaining the increased risk of colon cancer in older persons.

Researchers say their next steps include testing whether hormone replacement could prevent the development or growth of colon cancer in mice. This test would be followed by human tests. They are also trying to understand how guanylin functions precisely in maintaining the colon cells’ normal health.

If the recent findings are proven entirely true, colon cancer can become preventable by providing "hormone replacement therapy with guanylin" to patients, according to Waldman, who is also chair of the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics and the Samuel MV Hamilton professor at Thomas Jefferson University. The researchers say further studies are required.

The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) expect over 50,000 deaths this year from colon cancer. The NCI also estimates new cases to reach over 96,000.

The American Association for Cancer Research published the research in its Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal.

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