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Colon cancer

New Link Between Colon Cancer and Body Fat Discovered

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 by: Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor
Tags: colon cancer, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) We've all heard by now that being overweight carries significant health risks -- including upping the odds you'll have cancer one day. But now a Michigan State University (MSU) scientist has identified a specific connection between colon cancer and body fat.

Jenifer Fenton, an MSU food science and human nutrition researcher with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, discovered the new link between obesity and colon cancer by examining tissue hormones. She and her research team, which included MSU/MAES physiologist Julia Busik and biologist Fay Hansen-Smith of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, examined a key hormone called leptin found in fat tissue

A fat cell-derived hormone that helps regulate body energy, leptin is higher in obese individuals. Dr. Fenton's study, just published in the journal Carcinogenesis is the first to demonstrate that leptin, when at high levels, induces precancerous colon cells to produce more of a growth factor. This growth factor, in turn, can increase blood supply to early malignant cells -- and that promotes the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.

"Adipose tissue, or fat, is recognized as a significant risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, but the role of adipose tissue in cancer risk is less understood," Dr. Fenton said in a press statement. "Abdominal fat in particular seems to be associated with the greatest risk for cancer. As your waist-to-hip ratio increases, so does your risk for cancer, especially breast, colon and endometrial cancers." She explained that her research team concentrated on colon cancer because, unlike breast or prostate cancer, colon cancer affects both genders equally.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 149,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 50,000 will die from the disease in 2009. By understanding the active signals and mechanisms involved in the development of this often deadly cancer, the door opens to ways to prevent or interrupt the progression of this disease. The new study's findings should be a reminder that one way to take charge of your health in order to avoid cancer is to get weight under control.

"The impact of obesity and cancer are a priority for the health of the nation," Dr. Fenton said in the media statement. "Although weight loss is the ideal prevention strategy for reducing obesity as a risk factor for colon cancer, 95 percent of all people who lose weight will gain it back -- and often more -- within a year, so behavior modification as a prevention strategy is difficult and challenging. For this reason, continuing research also will include the identification of dietary compounds that may prevent or reduce colon cancer risk associated with obesity in the absence of weight loss."

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About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

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