Doctors are studying the connection between cholesterol and colon cancer
A diet that is particularly high in cholesterol leads to an increased risk of developing colon cancer. According to a recent study, this type of diet accelerates the rate of formation of tumors in colorectal cancer by more than 100 times.
The researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that a diet high in cholesterol massively increased the formation of tumors. The experts published the results of their study in the journal "Cell Stem Cell".
High cholesterol leads to faster division of the intestinal stem cells
In their study, the researchers investigated the effects of a diet that is particularly high in cholesterol on mice. The doctors were able to determine that an increase in the cholesterol level in the animals led to a faster division of the so-called intestinal stem cells. This effect allowed tumors to form much faster.
The formation of tumors was accelerated more than 100 times
"We were impressed to see that cholesterol influences the growth of stem cells in the intestine, which in turn accelerates the rate of tumor formation by more than 100 times," explains Dr. Peter Tontonoz in a UCLA press release. "While the link between cholesterol and colon cancer is well established, no one has yet explained the mechanism behind it," adds the expert.
Cholesterol in the intestinal stem cells
Scientists raised intestinal stem cell cholesterol in some mice by giving them more cholesterol with their diet. In other mice, the researchers changed a specific gene that regulates the so-called phospholipids. These phospholipids cause the cells to produce more cholesterol themselves, the researchers explain. As a result, the proliferation of stem cells increased in both groups of mice.
How did the increased cholesterol levels affect the laboratory mice?
As the animals' cholesterol levels increased, their cells divided faster. This caused the tissue to expand and its intestines to become longer. These changes significantly accelerated the rate of tumor formation, the scientists explain. The experts suspect that the mechanism, which has not yet been found in other studies, drives tumor growth in people on a high-cholesterol diet.
Can Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Reduce the Risk of Colon Cancer?
Many scientists are still debating whether cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, which are often prescribed to people at increased risk of heart attacks or strokes, help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Further research is expected to address the risk of other cancers
The UCLA research team will investigate in the future whether the phospholipid-cholesterol interaction they discovered plays a similar role in accelerating the growth of other cancers. (as)