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Obesity ups cancer risk, and here's how
Date:1/21/2010

Obesity comes with plenty of health risks, but there's one that's perhaps not so well known: an increased risk of developing cancer, and especially certain types of cancer like liver cancer. Now, a group of researchers reporting in the January 22nd issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, have confirmed in mice that obesity does indeed act as a "bona fide tumor promoter." They also have good evidence to explain how that happens.

"Doctors always worry about our weight, but the focus is often on cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, both of which can be managed pretty well with existing drugs," said Michael Karin of the University of California, San Diego. "However, we should also worry about elevated cancer risk. If we can reduce cancer deaths by as many as 90,000 per year, that's a lot of people a lot of lives."

Karin's team shows that liver cancer is fostered by the chronic inflammatory state that goes with obesity, and two well known inflammatory factors in particular. The findings suggest that anti-inflammatory drugs that have already been taken by millions of people for diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease may also reduce the risk of cancer in those at high risk due to obesity and perhaps other factors as well, Karin said.

The epidemiological studies reported earlier showed that obese people have about a 1.5-fold increase in their risk of cancer overall. That may not necessarily sound like a lot, Karin said, but it equates to about 90,000 extra cancer deaths per year in the United States alone. When it comes to liver cancer, the study showed obese people have a 4.5-fold greater risk.

Given the apparent connection between obesity and liver cancer in particular, Karin's team decided to investigate in mice prone to develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The mice are typically given HCC either by exposure to a chemical carcinogen, known as DEN, when they are two weeks old, or
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Contact: Cathleen Genova
cgenova@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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