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Dietary changes can lower colon cancer risk in families with a history of the disease

family history of colorectal cancer on the development of the disease, high amounts also may be associated with the hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart attacks. As a result, dieticians do not recommend taking methionine supplements.

The new study not only provides guidance to people with family risks of colon cancer, Fuchs comments, but also may point toward a better understanding of the biology of the disease. Scientists know that folic acid, methionine, and alcohol all affect a process known as methylation, in which specialized compounds of hydrogen and carbon are attached to various structures and products of cells.

Methylation plays a vital role, for example, in creating the building blocks of DNA within cells. Without sufficient methylation, the DNA structure may become unstable, raising the prospect of certain diseases, including cancer.

Its possible, Fuchs says, that families with a pattern of colon cancer may have some modest alteration in either DNA processing or repair that makes them particularly susceptible to deficiencies in the methylation process.

This research may make it possible to identify genes that confer a greater risk of the disease in families with a history of it, Fuchs remarks. That would be an important step toward therapies able to reduce that risk. Our findings involving folate may offer a first clue.


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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-4090
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
14-Mar-2002


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