High-Fat Diet Influences Colorectal Cancer Risk


A diet high in red and processed meats, sugar, and saturated fats can lead to colorectal cancer.

An unhealthy diet has been implicated in approximately 80% of colorectal cancer cases; however, the mechanisms that drive this increased risk were previously unknown.

The results of a new study published by Stem Cell Reports show that a specific molecular pathway plays a significant role in the association between high-fat diet and colorectal cancer.

“We have known the influence of diet on colorectal cancer. However, these new findings are the first to show the connection between high-fat intake and colon cancer via a specific molecular pathway,” said study co-author Matthew Kalady, MD. “We can now build upon this knowledge to develop new treatments aimed at blocking this pathway and reducing the negative impact of a high-fat diet on colon cancer risk.”

The investigators found that colon cancer stem cell growth in mice was stimulated by a high-fat diet, such as the Western diet, which includes red and processed meats, sugar, and saturated fats.

Cancer stem cells are known to be aggressive and resilient. These cells are thought to drive metastatic and recurrent disease.

Included in the study were human colorectal cancer-free survival data. The authors examined primary and metastatic colorectal cancer and verified the previously discovered a link between a high-fat diet and stem cell maintenance in mice, according to the study.

The authors examined the JAK2-STAT3 cellular signaling pathway, which is known to play a role in cancer growth.

The investigators found that when the pathway was inhibited, the high rate of cancer stem cell growth—the result of a high-fat diet—was reduced, according to the study. These findings show additional ways the JAK2-STAT3 pathway drives cancer.

The authors believe that determining the specific mechanism that causes an uptick in cancer stem cells can eventually lead to drugs that can reduce the effects of the Western diet on colorectal cancer, according to the study.

“These findings also provide a new way in which cancer stem cells are regulated and provide insight into how environmental influences, such as diet, can alter cancer stem cell populations in advanced cancers,” said study co-author Justin D. Lathia, PhD.

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