Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 483-489

First online:

Association Between 6-n-Propylthiouracil (PROP) Bitterness and Colonic Neoplasms

  • Marc D. BassonAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, Wayne State University and John D. Dingell VA Medical Center
  • , Linda M. BartoshukAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery, Yale University School of Surgery
  • , Susan Z. DiChelloAffiliated withDepartments of Surgery and Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine
  • , Lisa PanziniAffiliated withVeterans Health Administration/Veterans Affairs Medical Center
  • , James M. WeiffenbachAffiliated withNational Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH
  • , Valerie B. DuffyAffiliated withVeterans Health Administration/Veterans Affairs Medical CenterSchool of Allied Health, University of Connecticut Email author 

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Inadequate vegetable intake appears to increase colon cancer risk. Since genetic variation in taste influences vegetable preference, we tested associations between bitterness of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP), a measure of taste genetics, and number of colonic polyps, a measure of colon cancer risk, in 251 men who underwent screening lower endoscopy. Patients used the general Labeled Magnitude Scale to rate bitterness of 1.6 mg PROP delivered via filter paper. A subset of 86 patients reported weekly vegetable intakes, excluding salad or potatoes. PROP bitterness correlated significantly with polyp number, an effect separate from age-associated increases in polyp number. The PROP–polyp relationship was strongest in men over 66 years, and older men with polyps were most likely to be overweight or obese. In the subset reporting vegetable intake, men who tasted PROP as more bitter consumed fewer vegetables. These preliminary findings suggest that taste genetics may influence colon cancer risk, possibly through intake of vegetables.


colon cancer diet vegetable intake polyps bitter taste genetics