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How Fatty Foods Trigger Colon Cancer


Fatty diets have long been thought to cause colon cancer. Research shows that fatty foods alter epigenetic markers, releasing excess insulin that feeds tumours.

It’s pretty safe to say that any burger that has a name is bad for you. Naming a burger usually means it consists of more than one patty, more than one meat, and is too big for human mouths at this point in our evolution. As well as leading to obesity, consuming too many fatty foods such as burgers and fries has long been believed to cause colon cancer.

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia have discovered how and why high fat diets are linked to colon cancer. Their findings are published in the March issue of the journal Cancer Prevention Research.

Researchers compared colon tissue in patients with colon cancer to colon tissue of cancer patients who didn’t have colon cancer.

Fatty foods change epigenetic markers
Genes that are involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins appeared to have been retrained in colon cancer patients. The epigenetic markers on these genes are like chemical off and on switches.

"These [fatty] foods are changing the methylation patterns on a person’s insulin genes so that they express differently, pumping out more insulin than the body requires,"said the study’s lead author Carmen Sapienza, professor of pathology in Temple’s Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology.

Excess insulin feeds tumours
“In people that have colon cancer, their glucose metabolic pathways and insulin signalling pathways are running at completely different levels than people who don’t have colon cancer.”

Sapienza said that research has shown that tumours feed off of insulin. “Insulin is only supposed to be expressed in your pancreas, so having this extra insulin is bad,” he said.

Most people don’t get colon cancer until they’re 50 or older. More research is required to determine exactly when this genetic modification begins. Researchers believe that if a cancerous polyp forms after this genetic change occurs, the polyp feeds off the extra insulin.

If the change in colon tissue is also found in other body tissues, researchers may be able to develop a simple saliva or blood test to detect colon cancer, in addition to using a colonoscopy.



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