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Thursday 18 January 2018

Snacking on sweets linked to cancer

Researchers find clear link between disease and diet high in fat and sugar

Lucy Christie

SNACKING on sweet treats such as biscuits, cakes and fizzy juice has been linked to bowel cancer in a new study.

The research is the first of its kind to reveal a positive connection between the disease and a diet high in sugar and fat.

A team from Edinburgh University, Scotland, looked at risk factors including levels of physical activity, smoking and diet.

Scientists examined more than 170 foods, including fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, as well as high-energy snack foods such as chocolate, nuts, crisps and fruit drinks including fruit squash.

They reported links with some established risk factors of colorectal cancer – a family history of cancer, low exercise and tobacco. The team also identified new factors including high intake of high-energy snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks. The study, published in the latest edition of the 'European Journal of Cancer Prevention', builds on previous research into the link between bowel cancer and diet.

Dr Evropi Theodoratou from Edinburgh University's School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, said: "While the positive associations between a diet high in sugar and fat and colorectal cancer do not automatically imply cause and effect, it is important to take on board what we've found – especially as people in industrialised countries are consuming more of these foods."

Meanwhile, scientists have found that a weapon in the body's immune system armoury may play a major role in triggering cancer. Researchers were surprised to find that the family of virus-fighting proteins produce gene defects linked to several cancers.

MUTATIONS

The discovery was especially unexpected because one of the main functions of the molecules is to protect DNA from attack by viruses.

The proteins, known as APOBEC cytidine deaminases, were found to account for more than two-thirds of bladder, cervical, breast, head and neck, and lung tumour mutations.

All cancers are ultimately the result of mistakes in the genetic code that remain uncorrected. These can have a number of causes, including toxic chemicals and radiation.

The new evidence, from a study of a million mutations in 2,680 cancer samples, suggests APOBEC proteins may be one important trigger. The discovery could lead to new ways to avoid cancer, the researchers believe.

Irish Independent

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