Sugar + Fat Might Add up to Colon Cancer

Colon cancer linked to changes in glucose metabolic pathways and insulin signaling pathways

(RxWiki News) Obesity has long been associated with increased risks of developing cancer. Diets high in sugar and fat have also been thought to be cancer-promoting. But there haven't been any firm links - until now.

New research has uncovered why there's a link between high fat diets and colon cancer. It has to do with how the body metabolizes both fat and sugar.

"Save high fat, sugary treats for special occasions."

Researchers at Temple University, under the guidance of Carmen Sapienza, Ph.D., professor of pathology in Temple’s Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology, have found that a person's diet can actually turn on and off the genes involved with cancer.

Comparing the colon tissue of people with cancer to healthy tissue, the team found alterations in the chemistry of genes involved in breaking down carbohydrates, lipids (fats) and amino acids.

In simplest terms, Sapienza explains that the insulin genes are "pumping out more insulin than the body requires.” He adds that cancer cells gobble up insulin and tumor cells feed on it to get fatter.

“Insulin is only supposed to be expressed in your pancreas, so having this extra insulin is bad,” Sapienza said.

It's unclear when this all happens. Sapienza supposes there's a change in the body's metabolism at some point, and after a DNA change occurs, then cancer has the right menu to grow.

“There have always been questions about why things like diet and obesity are independent risk factors for colon cancer. This study suggests how and why high fat diets are linked to colon cancer.”

He and his team say that if these changes are found in other tissues, this might lead to the development of a saliva or blood test to diagnose colon cancer along with colonoscopy.

This research was published in the March, 2012 issue of the American Association for Cancer Research’s journal, Cancer Prevention Research.

The study was funded through the National Institutes of Health and Temple’s Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology.

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Review Date: 
March 9, 2012