NUS Researchers Uncover Link Between Poor Diet and Elevated Cancer Risk

by Ella
healthy diet

A recent study led by a team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has shed light on the relationship between cancer risk and dietary habits, offering insights into the development of preventive strategies. The findings, published in the prestigious journal Cell, hold promise for enhancing cancer prevention efforts and promoting healthier aging.

Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, leading the research at the Cancer Science Institute of Singapore (CSI Singapore), highlighted the importance of understanding the interplay between genetics and environmental factors like diet, exercise, and pollution in cancer development. “Cancer is a result of complex interactions,” he explained, emphasizing the need to decipher these connections for effective preventive measures.


The study focused on patients with a heightened risk of breast or ovarian cancers due to inherited mutations in the BRCA2 gene. Researchers discovered that cells from these individuals were particularly sensitive to methylglyoxal, a chemical produced during glucose metabolism. Methylglyoxal was found to induce DNA damage, indicating early signs of cancer development.


Moreover, the study suggested that elevated methylglyoxal levels, commonly associated with conditions like diabetes and obesity stemming from poor diet, could increase cancer risk even in individuals without BRCA2 mutations. “High methylglyoxal levels may signify higher cancer risk,” Prof. Venkitaraman noted, highlighting the potential of utilizing HbA1C blood tests as a marker for early detection.


Dr. Li Ren Kong, the study’s lead author, underscored the broader implications of their findings, emphasizing the role of diet and weight management in cancer risk reduction. The research challenges long-held theories, such as Knudson’s ‘two-hit’ paradigm, suggesting that transient inactivation of cancer-preventing genes by methylglyoxal could contribute to tumorigenesis.


The team’s groundbreaking work opens new avenues for understanding the complex interplay between metabolism, diet, and cancer. Moving forward, they plan to investigate how metabolic disorders impact cancer risk in Singapore and across Asia, aiming to develop more targeted preventive strategies.

The publication of these significant findings marks a crucial milestone in cancer research, offering hope for more effective approaches to combat this prevalent disease.



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