This is how belly fat could increase your cancer risk

It's been well established that obesity is a contributor to cancer risk, but how it actually causes cancer is still a question that hasn't been fully explained. A new Michigan State University study now offers new details showing that a certain protein released from fat in the body can cause a non-cancerous cell to turn into a cancerous one. The federally funded research also found that a lower layer of abdominal fat, when compared to fat just under the skin, is the more likely culprit, releasing even more of this protein and encouraging tumor growth.

"While there have been several advances in treating cancer and improving the quality of life of patients, the number of new cases continues to surge," said Jamie Bernard, lead author and an assistant professor in pharmacology and toxicology.

"It's important to understand the cause so we can do a better job at reducing the number of cancer cases using dietary modifications or therapeutic interventions."

It's estimated that more than one-third of the population is obese. Obesity has been linked to several types of cancers including breast, colon, prostate, uterine and kidney, but Bernard indicated that just being overweight isn't necessarily the best way to determine risk.

"Our study suggests that body mass index, or BMI, may not be the best indicator," Bernard said. "It's abdominal obesity, and even more specifically, levels of a protein called fibroblast growth factor-2 that may be a better indicator of the risk of cells becoming cancerous."

There are two layers of belly fat. The top layer, known as subcutaneous fat, lies right under the skin. The layer under that, called visceral fat, is the one she found to be more harmful.

Bernard and her co-author Debrup Chakraborty, a postdoctoral student in her lab, studied mice that were fed a high-fat diet and discovered that this higher-risk layer of fat produced larger amounts of the fibroblast growth factor-2, or FGF2, protein when compared to the subcutaneous fat. They found that FGF2 stimulated certain cells that were already vulnerable to the protein and caused them to grow into tumors.

She also collected visceral fat tissue from women undergoing hysterectomies and found that when the fat secretions had more of the FGF2 protein, more of the cells formed cancerous tumors when transferred into mice.

"This would indicate that fat from both mice and humans can make a non-tumorigenic cell malignantly transform into a tumorigenic cell," Bernard said.

She added that there are several other factors released from fat, including the hormone estrogen, that could influence cancer risk, but many of those studies have only been able to show an association and not a direct cause of cancer. She also said genetics plays a role.

"There's always an element of chance in whether a person will get cancer or not," Bernard said. "But by making smarter choices when it comes to diet and exercise and avoiding harmful habits like smoking, people can always help skew the odds in their favor."

Bernard indicated that she is already looking at identifying new anti-cancer compounds in her research that could stop the effects of FGF2.

Chakraborty D, Benham V, Bullard B, Kearney T, Hsia HC, Gibbon D, Demireva EY, Lunt SY, Bernard JJ.
Fibroblast growth factor receptor is a mechanistic link between visceral adiposity and cancer.
Oncogene. 2017 Aug 7. doi: 10.1038/onc.2017.278.

Most Popular Now

Delivering insulin in a pill

Given the choice of taking a pill or injecting oneself with a needle, most of us would opt to regulate a chronic health condition by swallowing a pill. But for millions o...

Probiotics can protect the skeletons of older wome…

For the first time in the world, researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have demonstrated that probiotics, dietary supplements with health-promoting bacteri...

Alzheimer's breakthrough: Brain metals that may dr…

Alzheimer's disease could be better treated, thanks to a breakthrough discovery of the properties of the metals in the brain involved in the progression of the neurodegen...

FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ing…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms o...

In mice, stem cells seem to work in fighting obesi…

Obesity is an increasing global health problem associated with several comorbidities and a high risk of mortality. A wide spectrum of interventions has been proposed for ...

Can aspirin treat Alzheimer's?

A regimen of low-dose aspirin potentially may reduce plaques in the brain, which will reduce Alzheimer's disease pathology and protect memory, according to neurological r...

FDA takes steps to foster greater efficiency in bi…

Today, the agency withdrew the draft guidance, "Statistical Approaches to Evaluate Analytical Similarity," issued in September 2017. The draft guidance, if finalized as w...

Research shows how a moderate dose of alcohol prot…

For at least 20 years, research has shown that for many people, moderate consumption of alcohol can protect the heart, but the reason for this is poorly understood. A stu...

'Kiss of death' cancer

It's called the 'kiss of death'. Triple negative breast cancer has no targeted drug therapy and, as such, the only hope for these patients is chemotherapy. Triple negativ...

Novartis Clear about Psoriasis survey data highlig…

Novartis announced today the publication of global Clear about Psoriasis survey data in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology[1]. The publica...

Some existing anti-cancer drugs may act in part by…

Bolstering the notion that RNA should be considered an important drug-discovery target, scientists at Scripps Research have found that several existing, FDA-approved anti...

Poliovirus therapy for recurrent glioblastoma has …

A genetically modified poliovirus therapy developed at Duke Cancer Institute shows significantly improved long-term survival for patients with recurrent glioblastoma, wit...