13 Jun Cleveland Clinic Study Suggests Diet Plays Important Role in Colon Cancer Development
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Suneel Kamath MD
Senior Author on this research
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Colorectal cancer rates in young people under age 50 are skyrocketing and have been for the last 3-4 decades. We really don’t understand why because most cases (probably around 70%) are not genetic or hereditary, just random, unfortunate events. We suspect that it is some exposure(s) like excess consumption of red meat, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, excess antibiotic use altering the microbiome, rising incidence of obesity or some other factors. We really don’t know why yet.
Our study used a technology called metabolomics, the study of breakdown products and production building blocks for our bodies, to look for differences in colorectal cancer in young people versus people that are older that developed colorectal cancer. Because metabolomics measures how each individual interacts with the exposures in our environment like diet, air quality, etc., it is a way to bridge the gap between our nature (determined by genetics) and nurture (determined by our exposures).
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We found that a carbohydrate breakdown product called citrate (also called citric acid) is found at higher levels in older people with colorectal cancer compared to young-onset colorectal cancer. We also found several pathways involved in production of certain amino acids like arginine and certain carbohydrates to be more activated in colorectal cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: Why is colorectal cancer increasing in incidence among younger patients?
MedicalResearch.com: The short answer is, we don’t know yet. We know that the same risk factors that increase risk of colorectal cancer in older people like obesity, red meat consumption, also increase risk of colorectal cancer in the young, but why this is increasingly happening in younger people compared to 50 years ago remains a mystery. We suspect that it is some exposure(s) like excess consumption of red meat, processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, excess antibiotic use altering the microbiome, rising incidence of obesity or some other factors.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our results suggest that diet plays an important role in the development of colorectal cancer, including in young people. We need to do what we can to reduce red meat and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. These findings are very preliminary, but are consistent with earlier research on risk factors for developing colorectal cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: Future research is needed to confirm our findings at a larger, population level. We also need more work to identify other important risk factors that are driving the rise of colorectal cancer in young people, as there are likely many others.
Future research could also look at medicines to target the pathways we identified for people who already have colorectal cancer.
I have no disclosures related to this work.
ASCO 2023 abstract:
Metabolomic differences in young-onset versus average-onset colorectal adenocarcinoma
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