University of Pittsburgh researchers demonstrate metabolic link between large,,waists and colorectal cancer

PITTSBURGH, July 15 -- People with large waistlines suffer metabolic changes that significantly predispose them to developing colorectal cancer, according to new data from a University of Pittsburgh-led study whose results are published in the July 7 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This information is the first to link intra-abdominal fat, or visceral adipose tissue (VAT), and its associated metabolic changes with colorectal cancer, according to the authors.

"For several years, scientists have recognized that obese people are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Our study sheds light on the metabolic process underlying this connection," said Robert Schoen, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he is the medical director of the Center for Families at Risk for Colorectal Cancer. "The metabolic parameters we measured, including glucose, insulin and waist circumference, reveal a risk of colorectal cancer that equals or exceeds other known risk factors, such as having a first-degree relative with this disease or consuming a high-fat or low-fiber diet."

The current report is based on a study of 5,849 people age 65 and older who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a multi-center observational study of risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke. The researchers found that people with increased waistlines, high levels of glucose (the sugar needed to fuel the body's activities) and high levels of insulin (the hormone that helps dispose of glucose) were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer as individuals without these characteristics. Individuals in the study who developed colorectal cancer did not differ from their non-affected counterparts in terms of smoking, current aspirin use, alcoholic drinks consumed per week, percent of fat calories in diet or mean number of vegetable or fruit servings per week. Study participant

Contact: Lauren Ward
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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