BACKGROUND: Colon cancer constitutes one of the most frequent malignancies. Previous studies showed that Salmonella manipulates host cell signaling pathways and that Salmonella Typhimurium infection facilitates colon cancer development in genetically predisposed mice. This epidemiological study examined whether severe Salmonella infection, usually acquired from contaminated food, is associated with increased colon cancer risk in humans.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: We performed a nationwide registry-based study to assess colon cancer risk after diagnosed Salmonella infection. National infectious disease surveillance records (1999-2015) for Dutch residents aged ≥20 years when diagnosed with salmonellosis (n = 14,264) were linked to the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Salmonella-infected patients were laboratory-confirmed under medical consultation after 1-2 weeks of illness. These datasets also contained information on Salmonella serovar and type of infection. Colon cancer risk (overall and per colon subsite) among patients with a diagnosed Salmonella infection was compared with expected colon cancer risk in the general population. Data from the nationwide registry of histo- and cytopathology (PALGA) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) allowed assessing potential effects of age, gender, latency, socioeconomic status, genetic predisposition, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and tumor features. We found that compared to the general population, colon cancer risk was significantly increased (standardized incidence ratio [SIR] 1.54; 95%CI 1.09-2.10) among patients with Salmonella infection diagnosed <60 years of age. Such increased risk concerned specifically the ascending/transverse colon (SIR 2.12; 95%CI 1.38-3.09) after S. Enteritidis infection (SIR 2.97; 95%CI 1.73-4.76). Salmonellosis occurred more frequently among colon cancer patients with pre-infectious IBD, a known risk factor for colon cancer. Colon tumors of patients with a history of Salmonella infection were mostly of low grade.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients diagnosed with severe salmonellosis have an increased risk of developing cancer in the ascending/transverse parts of the colon. This risk concerns particularly S. Enteritidis infection, suggesting a contribution of this major foodborne pathogen to colon cancer development.