High Fat Diet Promotes Cancer Spread

Researchers have found that consuming a high fat diet increases the chances that cancer will metastasize, or spread, by three hundred percent. Purdue University scientists have precisely measured the process of how a high fat diet promotes the spread of cancer from studying lab mice.

The study measured the impact of fat and the spread of cancer. The findings revealed that a high fat diet causes cancerous tumors to undergo a process that changes the shape of cancer cells, allowing them to mobilize and spread throughout the body.

The scientists measured the spread of cancer using imaging techniques that allowed the researchers to see the changes in the cancer cells. A second technique, called intravital flow cytometry, then showed the researchers how many cancer cells were in the animal’s bloodstream. The imaging and cytometry techniques might also help diagnose the spread of cancer in humans.

The reasons that fat can cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is thought to be the result of the energy requirements of cancer cells - lipids fuel cancer. Cancer cells need lipids from fats to grow.

Thuc T. Le, a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at Purdue who assisted the research said, "If the cancer cells don't have excess lipids they stick together and form very tight junctions in tumors, but increasing lipids causes them to take on a rounded shape and separate from each other." Cancer cells spread when their shape changes. Eating a diet high in fat makes that happen.

The study found that feeding the mice a high fat diet caused a 300 percent increase in the rate of cancer spread.

Importantly, monosaturated fats did not cause separation and spread of the cancer cells, but polyunsaturated fats did cause cancer to metastasize. The finding supports previous studies showing that diets high in polyunsaturated fats can promote cancer spread.

The study authors say more research is planned to explore how obesity might cause cancer. The take home message is that we should all begin to take seriously the potential harm of bad dietary habits. Research continues to show a link between obesity and cancer.

The current study measured with precision how cancer cells change, then enter the bloodstream to attack other vital organs, when fueled by a high fat diet.