Colon cancer is responsible for 600,000 deaths per year worldwide, and is also the fourth most common cause of death from cancer. Interestingly, the rates of colon cancer are much higher in western countries versus the areas in the Far East or Africa. Moreover, the African America community are seen to have a higher prevalence of the disease in the United States.
Each volunteer had colonoscopy exams before and after swapping their diets. Other biological markers that indicate risk of colon cancer as well as bacteria samples from the colon were also measured. Two weeks after the diet swap, the American group eating an African diet have significantly less colon inflammation and reduced cancer risk biomarkers. In the African group however, they experienced a drastic increase in measurements indicating cancer risk after being on the western diet.
What is the cause of the major effects? One major reason for these changes in cancer risk that was found in the study is the alteration of the gut microbiome, or gut bacteria. The microbiome altered their metabolism in response to the new diet. Researchers found an increased production of butyrate which has anti-cancer effects in the American group who ate an African diet. A member of the Imperial research group, Dr. James Kinross, states that the gut microbiome has been recognized to serve important contributions to human health. The research in this particular study showed the critical importance that the gut bacteria had on mediating the association between diet and colon cancer risk. Duet to the findings, more research should be done to develop therapies which directly target gut bacteria as a method of preventing and treating cancer.
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