New gene variant ups risk of cancer from processed meat

A common genetic variant that affects one in three people appears to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer from the consumption of processed meat, according to study published today in PLOS Genetics.

The study of over 18,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe represents the first large-scale genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns that may help explain more of the risk factors for colorectal cancer. Dr Jane Figueiredo at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, explained that eating processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and for about a third of the general population who carry this genetic variant, the risk of eating processed meat is even higher compared to those who do not.

“Our results, if replicated by other studies, may provide us with a greater understanding of the biology into colorectal carcinogenesis,” said Dr Ulrike Peters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.

The study population totaled 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer and a control group of 9,117 individuals without cancer, all participants in 10 observational studies that were pooled in the largest meta-analysis sponsored by the National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO) and Colorectal Cancer Family Registry.

Scientists systematically searched 2.7 million variants to identify those that are associated with the consumption of meat, fiber, fruits and vegetables. A significant interaction between the genetic variant rs4143094 and processed meat consumption was detected. This variant is located on the same chromosome 10 region that includes GATA3, a transcription factor gene previously linked to several forms of cancer. The transcription factor encoded by this gene plays a role in the immune system. Dr Figueiredo hypothesized that the genetic locus found to interact with processed meat may have interesting biological significance given its location in the genome, but further functional analyses are required.

Colorectal cancer is a multi-factorial disease attributed to both genetic causes and lifestyle factors; including diet. About 30 known genetic susceptibility alleles for colorectal cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. How specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established but represents an important area of research for prevention. “The possibility that genetic variants may modify an individual’s risk for disease based on diet has not been thoroughly investigated but represents an important new insight into disease development,” said Dr Li Hsu, the lead statistician on the study.

“Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile. This information can help us better understand the biology and maybe in the future lead to targeted prevention strategies,” said Dr Figueiredo.

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10 thoughts on “New gene variant ups risk of cancer from processed meat”

  1. This article has brought insight in the issue of cancer prevention strategies, specifically relating to how food may influence gene activity and increase an individual’s chance of getting cancer.
    What fascinates me is that the average individual generally disregards the dangers of processed foods and children are often given processed meat in sandwiches as a ‘healthy’ lunchtime snack.
    In the study mentioned in the article above, the genetic variant increased the risk of colorectal cancer, however, processed foods have been proven to increase the risk of cancer without it being linked directly to an individuals genomic profile at all.
    For example, research has proven that foods laden with additives, preservatives, colourants and trans fats (etc.) cause cancer in the body. This occurs because these ingredients are foreign to the body and ‘starve’ the cells of oxygen. The body reacts by becoming acidic and the cells degenerate, eventually entering a cancerous state. Dr. Sara Rosenthal (Ph.D.) supports this information in her book, “ Stopping Cancer at the Source”.
    The risk of colorectal cancer is higher for 1/3 of the population who do have the genetic variant, as stated by Dr. Jane Figueiredo in the article above.
    With more research being done in the food industry, cancer prevention strategies can be put into place and new information would hopefully increase awareness.

    I look forward to reading more about this line of research in the future.

  2. This study does not say that eating processed food causes colorectal Cancer. It merely states that a genetic variant that affects one in three people has been found to significantly increase the risk of getting colorectal Cancer.In simple terms , people with the genetic variant are more at risk of getting colorectal cancer from eating processed food than those without the genetic variant.It also reports that the extent to which diet and genetic variants modify an individuals risk for diseases has not been thoroughly investigated. Other diet factors associated with colorectal cancer include high fat intake and low fiber diets.All in all i think that a healthy lifestyle and good diet can reduce the risk of colorectal Cancer.

  3. With so many different cancer causing agents emerging daily, it is not a surprise to discover that processed meat is among one of them. I believe that most processed foods are not as healthy as fresh foods however it provides a cheaper alternative for most people.

    Being able to analyse the human genome and pinpoint certain genes is useful to aid cancer research and possible develop a cures. What was interesting about this study is that not only is processed meat found to be a risk factor for colon cancer but now a certain genetic variant common in a third of the population is said to increase the risk of this disease. The article mentions that over 30 alleles have been identified for colon cancer so I don’t think that processed foods are a sole contributor to the increased risk factor, it is just one of many that have been identified .It is however unusual to think that specific genes can be linked with processed food and cancer and I am confident more research needs to be done to determine the exact relationship.

    Although much information is still required to get a greater understanding of the relationship between the genes and the cancer, how would an individual determine whether they have this particular gene that leads to a greater risk of colon cancer? One would think that a full genetic screening and possible treatment of this would be expensive for most people.

    In conclusion I have to agree with most people who have previously commented and say that healthier lifestyle options should be taken into consideration as it is not only ones genes but also environmental factors that contribute to the formation of cancer.

  4. What a scary thought, but I personally think that a lot more research should be done before a definite conclusion can be made. The “so-called” linked made between eating processed meat and getting cancer should be verified with facts.

    There is stated that only one third of the people that participated in the study with this specific gene are more likely to get cancer from processed meat than others. If not noticed that on third is not the majority but still a high amount.

    There is also a lot of uncertainty with regards to the link between this gene and cancer, which also strengthens the fact that more research should be done.

    Processed meats are not the healthiest option and i think alternatives should be sought because it seems to have a lot of negative effects.

  5. Colorectal cancer is more commonly known as colon cancer, lead by uncontrolled cell growth in the colon, or appendix. The linkage between the gene for colorectal cancer and processed meat seems to be a high percentage, since one in every third person apparently has the gene. Taking into account how much of the population are actually meat-eaters, and are affected by poverty, the chances of people opting for cheaper processed meat instead of fresh meat which is more expensive, is very probable. Since colorectal cancer is not directly affected by ones diet, but ones genes as well it is hard to tell what the actual cause of this cancer is, and what other parts of ones diet influences its outcome. As mentioned in the study by Dr Ulrike Peters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division, only the repetition of these studies and experiments would give more insight into colorectal carcinogenesis. Perhaps this better understanding of which genes are affected by processed meat could lead to the banning of processed meats and thus healthier lifestyles for the population as a whole.Scientists should perhaps also focus on finding a healthier alternative to processed meat, or finding what exactly it is in the processed meat that links it to cancer. This could present a possible preventative measure of cancer, rather than a deadly ‘cure’ such as radiation, or chemotherapy.

  6. I strongly feel that genetic modified food are doing more harm than good. People should be aware of these negative effects genetic modified food have on one’s health. One third of the population is quite a lot, and I am certain that most of these people who carry this genetic variant from consumption of processed meat were unaware of the fact that processed meat causes an significantly increase in risk of colorectal cancer. With this being said, I strongly feel as though this raises questions to the food industry and a challenge to scientist/ researchers to find a possible prevention, to help minimize the risks of colorectal cancer.

  7. Until more research has been done, I feel that they should not draw the conclusion that there is indeed a link between this gene and getting cancer from processed meat. For one, they state that only one third of the people in the study with this specific gene are more likely to get cancer from processed meat than other people. One third is not a majority, even though it is quite a high ratio. Another thing is that it has not yet been proven that the diet has an effect on a person’s susceptibility to cancer so while it looks as if they may have come across a link between cancer and a certain gene they raised a whole lot more questions. Without further study it can be assumed that it may only have been a coincidence that so many people had a bigger chance of getting a disease with this gene.
    I do, however, think that it would be a good idea to come up with a healthier alternative to processed meats because it does seem that there are a number of different negative effects that are being identified.

  8. It is really terrifying to think that the avaliable processed meat is so dangerous to our health and that the tendency to get cancer after eating this meat is greater for a third of the population with a particular genetic variant. It is my opinion that processed meat is bought mostly by people who can little afford to buy anything else. This is terrible because they would most definitely not be able to afford the medical care needed if they are affected by cancer. This may be partly caused by the processed meat consumed. My main question, “Is there research being done on how to make this processed meat less of a health hazard, or is there a more affordable, alterrnative and healthy meat/protein?”

  9. It is terrifying to hear that processed meat that we eat everyday of our lives may lead to cancer. We need to do more research about the food that we eat and the risk that is associated with it. we need to plan our diets better. Scientist must do more research to make healthier processed meat and other food types. With this research we may find ways to make the risk of cancer less.

  10. Lately it seems like genetically modified food have a more negative effect than a positive one on the human population. Maybe scientists and biologists should not be studying the human genome and instead they should study this modified food because it seems like the more they try to find out about cancer the more questions they get than answers. About 80% of the human genome and cancer studies have yielded great results but it has also raised a lot more other questions.

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