Cancer Biology

New Study Shows Friendship Between Obesity and Cancer

A new study suggests that diet is associated with cancer and that obesity increases the risk of many types of cancer

The United States has a high problem of cancer.  Around one-third of cancer cases are associated with dietary and other modifiable risk factors, especially for obesity-related cancers such as breast, colorectal, ovarian, endometrial, kidney, gallbladder, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers.

A new study suggests that diet is associated with cancer and that obesity increases the risk of many types of cancer as well as several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and chronic inflammation.

During their study, team Lead investigator Stephen D. Hursting, who is the professor in Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed the multiple mechanisms underlying the obesity-cancer link. Their study also looked into the dietary interventions that are being implemented in preclinical and clinical trials.

“Obesity-associated metabolic perturbations are emerging as major drivers of obesity-related cancer, including alterations in growth factor signaling, inflammation, and angiogenesis,” explained Dr. Hursting. “Preclinical evidence suggests that dietary interventions, such as calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, low-fat diet and the ketogenic diet, have the potential to reverse some of these obesity-associated alterations; however, more clinical data are needed to confirm translation to human subjects.”

High-quality epidemiologic studies associate obesity and type 2 diabetes with an increased risk of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) which is one of the deadliest cancers. The study explores the risk factors for PDAC development and progression, their interplay and underlying mechanisms, and the relation to diet, and outlines research gaps and opportunities.

“Altogether, given the high mortality of PDAC and the expected increase in obesity and diabetes over the next few decades, efforts should be undertaken to mechanistically understand the link between obesity, diabetes, and PDAC. Preclinical animal models are available that will facilitate the study of these important interactions to advance our knowledge so that the obesity- and diabetes-driven burden of PDAC can be curbed,” commented Dr. Eibl.

During their research authors found that weight gain in an adult is related with Consumption of dietary energy density (DED) which is the ratio of energy (kilocalories or kilojoules) intake to food weight (grams) and is a measure of diet quality. They also investigated the association between baseline DED and obesity-associated cancers in over 90,000 postmenopausal women and found that DED was associated with higher risk of any obesity-related cancer. Of note, the higher risk was restricted to women with normal BMI.

“The demonstrated effect in normal-weight women in relation to risk for obesity-related cancers is novel and contrary to our hypothesis,” remarked Dr. Thomson. “This finding suggests that weight management alone may not protect against obesity-related cancers if women favor a diet pattern indicative of high energy density. Higher DED in normal-weight women may promote metabolic dysregulation independent of body weight, an exposure known to increase cancer risk.

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