BACKGROUND: An altered tumor microenvironment is one of the earliest signs of cancer and an important driver of the disease. We have seen previously that biomarkers reflecting tumor microenvironment modifications, such as matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-degraded type 1 collagen (C1M), MMP-degraded type IV collagen (C4M), and citrullinated and MMP-degraded vimentin (VICM), were higher in the serum of cancer patients than in healthy controls. However, it is not known if these biomarkers could predict an increased risk of cancer. The aim of this study was to investigate whether C1M, C4M, and VICM were elevated prior to diagnosis of solid cancers in a large prospective study.

METHODS: Between 1999 and 2001, 5,855 postmenopausal Danish women ages 48 to 89 years enrolled in the Prospective Epidemiologic Risk Factor study. Baseline demographics and serum were collected at the time of registration. Follow up cancer diagnoses were obtained from the Danish Cancer Registry in 2014. Serum C1M, C4M, and VICM levels were measured by competitive ELISAs.

RESULTS: A total of 881 women were diagnosed with solid cancers after baseline. C1M, C4M, and VICM levels were significantly elevated in women diagnosed less than 1 year after baseline. C1M and VICM, but not C4M, were independent predictors of increased risk of cancer.

CONCLUSION: C1M, C4M, and VICM are elevated prior to cancer diagnosis. C1M and VICM are both independent predictors of increased cancer risk.

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