January 15, 2010

Diet, Obesity, Cancer

I try to keep my professional life separate from my (poorly read) blogging activities. But I recently wrote something as part of my work that was really really interesting, to me at least, and has to do with food... well, at least potentially it does.

For some background, obesity has now been pretty strongly linked to cancer, with the upper estimate put at 100,000 cases of cancer annually linked to a significant excess of body weight. So, remembering that...

What I wrote about was a study in which researchers, using both cancer cells in a dish and mouse "models" of cancer, showed that cancer cells could use this lone enzyme to make themselves more aggressive. That is, makes them more likely to keep growing and potentially spread to other parts of the body.

The enzyme, when it's present in high levels in cancer cells, appears to help produce lots of specific kinds of fatty acids, little bits that make up fat molecules, and these fatty acids, in turn, jump start communications within the cells that allow them to engage in a hallmark of cancer, uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation. That in and of itself is pretty interesting.

But, what was even more intriguing -- and here is where the food comes in -- was this: they took mice with these specific aggressive cancers and they reduced the levels of that naughty enzyme that's causing all of the problems, and that slowed down tumor growth. They then fed some of the mice a high-fat diet and others a normal diet. And don't you know that tumor growth in the mice given the high-fat diet just took off.

As the researchers wrote, the findings may have

"provocative implications for the crosstalk between obesity and tumorigenesis.”

These are only cells in a dish and mice that did not develop cancer naturally. But at the very least, it's enough to really make you think about the connection between what we eat and cancer risk.

1 comment:

Doctor_Eva said...

Your weight is a bit over the normal, but you're ok? Don't wait until it's too late! But I know, how to lose weight!