Exploring the Link Between Diet and Colon Cancer: New Insights from Baylor College of Medicine Study

by Ella

The ongoing debate surrounding the impact of environmental factors on cancer risk, particularly in relation to diet, takes a significant step forward with recent research from Baylor College of Medicine. Published in Cancer Research Communications, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, the study led by Baylor’s researchers sheds light on a specific mechanism through which dietary folate may heighten the risk of colon cancer in animal models.

Despite previous epidemiological research suggesting a connection between diet and cancer, the exact mechanisms linking dietary factors to cancer susceptibility, especially colon cancer, have remained elusive. The recent study delves into the intricate pathways from diet to colon cancer, emphasizing the role of epigenetics, the system by which DNA is bookmarked to regulate gene expression without altering the DNA sequence.


Dr. Lanlan Shen, the corresponding author and a professor of pediatrics – nutrition at Baylor, explains, “Understanding this link between our meals and how our genes work is a big deal. It’s like finding a missing piece of a puzzle we’re getting closer to solving about how to keep our bodies healthy.”


The researchers focused on the impact of dietary folate on colon cancer development in their animal model. The findings indicated that animals on a folate-supplemented diet exhibited significantly shortened overall survival, more tumors, and larger tumors compared to those on a non-supplemented diet. The tumors also showed the presence of tumor-associated macrophages, immune cell infiltrations associated with immunosuppression and poor prognosis in colorectal cancer patients.


“Importantly, we observed substantially increased epigenetic methylation of gene p16 – a gene involved in colon cancer development – in animals on the supplemented diet compared to controls,” Shen added. “These findings illuminate a direct link between dietary folate and accelerated tumor development in the colon.”


This research provides crucial insights into how the environment, specifically dietary choices, can impact cancer risk. Colon cancer, being one of the most prevalent cancers and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, makes these findings particularly significant.



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