Investigating the link between being overweight and colon cancer
Sep 4, 2005 - 8:16:38 PM

Researchers at the University of Leeds are investigating the link between being overweight and the risk of colon cancer with a grant of £98,587 from the world cancer research fund.

Professor Mark Hull, who is leading the research, and his team are testing whether being overweight leads to inflammation of the colon and whether this explains the increase in the risk of cancer developing.

It is thought that inflammation creates an imbalance in cell turnover between cells dying and new cells forming, so that cells can then become cancerous. Laboratory studies have shown that an eight per cent reduction in body weight leads to a 40 per cent drop in this cell turnover and so maintaining a healthy weight may be an important factor in avoiding colon cancer along with other measures such as eating plenty of fruit and vegetables and taking exercise.

Professor Mark Hull, from the University of Leeds school of medicine said: “We are extremely grateful to the world cancer research fund for this grant. On average, across the entire population, you have a 1 in 50 chance of developing colon cancer so it is vitally important that people should take preventative measures to try and avoid this disease, which includes maintaining a healthy weight.”

Dr Elaine Stone, senior research manager at the world cancer research fund said: “Our funding is vital for research of this kind. We believe that many cancers can be avoided by eating a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a stable weight throughout life and this research will add to the wealth of information that already exists supporting this.”

The team are working with a group of extremely obese patients who are undergoing stomach bypass surgery that will enable them to lose 25-30kg (between 3 stone 9lbs and 4 stone 7 lbs) in the six months following surgery. The results of this operation mean when food is eaten only a certain amount of nutrients are absorbed by the body as the food enters the digestive system lower down.

A sample of bowel is taken from the patient before the surgery and the level of inflammation will be measured. Six months following surgery patients will be invited to return to the hospital for a follow up to see whether this has reduced.

There are 200,000 overweight people in Leeds and every year the hospital performs about 50 stomach bypass operations. Prior to surgery the patient will have undergone a variety of other weight loss interventions such as, advice on weight control, diet, exercise and lifestyle, drug therapy, referral to specialist weight loss clinics, behavioural therapy and low calorie and very low calorie diets.

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