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Unhealthy Snacks Tied to Colon Cancer for Those at High Risk

MONDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Eating unhealthy snack foods may increase the risk of colorectal cancer in people with a genetic susceptibility to certain types of cancer, according to a new study.

The study included 486 people with Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition caused by mutations in genes that help repair DNA within cells. People with the condition have a high risk of developing colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer and other cancers at an early age.

Previous research has shown that consuming alcohol and red and processed meats can increase the risk of cancer in people with Lynch syndrome. Smoking and obesity are other possible risk factors.

The participants in this study provided information about their eating habits and were followed for an average of 20 months. During that time, colorectal polyps (precancerous growths) were detected in 58 of the patients, according to the study published Dec. 17 in the journal Cancer.

"We saw that Lynch syndrome patients who had an eating pattern with higher intakes of snack foods -- like fast-food snacks, chips or fried snacks -- were twice as likely to develop these polyps as Lynch syndrome patients having a pattern with lower intakes of snack foods," study author Akke Botma, of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said in a journal news release.

The results suggest that eating habits may influence the development of colorectal polyps in people with Lynch syndrome.

"Unfortunately, this does not mean that eating a diet low in snack foods will prevent any polyps from developing, but it might mean that those Lynch syndrome patients who eat a lot of snack foods might have more polyps than if they ate less snack foods," Botma said.

While the study found an association between eating certain snack foods and the development of polyps in people with Lynch syndrome, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine's Genetics Home Reference has more about Lynch syndrome.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cancer, news release, Dec. 17, 2012

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