Utah Researchers Find that Fat Cells May Fuel Cancer
Article Referenced: Desert News Does obesity and fat cells have a connection to cancer growth? According to Cornelia Ulrich, and her team of experts at the University of Utah, the answer is yes. Cornelia Ulrich is the Senior Director of Population Sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. She specializes in lifestyle and biological factors in cancer prevention and prognosis, and recently has focused on the study of fat and how it contributes to cancer growth.
"Obesity is increasing dramatically worldwide, [and] we urgently need to identify the specific mechanisms that link obesity to cancer." - Dr. Cornelia Ulrich
Recently, she led a group of researchers in a literature review, analyzing materials dating back to 1946, that shows several ways that fat contributes to cancer growth, such as:
- Obesity can increased the risk of inflammation in the body - which has long been associated with cancer
- Obesity affects how cancer grows and/or spreads in the body, depending on the type of fat and where it is located
- Fat affects a person's immune response to disease
Previous research has indicated that obesity is a primary risk factor for many types of cancer: colorectal, postmenopausal breast, liver, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, gastric, gall bladder, pancreatic, ovarian, thyroid and even multiple myeloma cancer. Interactions between tumors that result from those cancers and the surrounding environment in the body may point to better prevention techniques. This interaction is what Ulrich refers to as "'crosstalk," or communication between cells and different types of fats in the body.
" For example, different types of fats (white, brown and beige), located deep in the body or just under the skin, can help cancer cells grow or spread depending on proximity to the diseased cells. Ulrich said that "the more we understand this process, the better we can identify targets and strategies for decreasing the burden of obesity-related cancer."
Ulrich said her study and previous research supports the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight. She recommends healthy diets and exercise that includes strength training to build lean muscle mass can help fight the development of excess fat. There is still much to learn, and Ulrich and her team know that as they continue their research, they will better understand how fat fuels cancer.