Tuesday September 21, 2021

Researchers find biological links between red meat and colorectal cancer

AFP
June 20, 2021
Researchers find biological links between red meat and colorectal cancer

WASHINGTON: Eating less red meat is standard medical advice for preventing colorectal cancer, but the way it causes cells to mutate has remained unclear, and not all experts were convinced there was a strong link.

A new paper in the journal Cancer Discovery has now identified specific patterns of DNA damage triggered by diets rich in red meat -- further implicating the food as a carcinogen while heralding the possibility of detecting the cancer early and designing new treatments.

Prior research establishing the connection was mainly epidemiologic, meaning that people who developed the condition were surveyed on their eating habits, and researchers spotted associations with colorectal cancer incidence.

But a lack of clarity around the biology meant that the case wasn’t quite slam dunk, and in 2019, one team of researchers made waves when they declared they only had a “low” degree of certainty that reducing consumption would prevent cancer deaths.

“When we say red meat is carcinogenic, and that it impacts incidence of cancer, there has to be some plausible way by which it does it,” Dana-Farber Cancer Institute oncologist Marios Giannakis, who led the new study, told AFP.

After all, scientists discovered long ago which chemicals in cigarette smoke are to blame for cancer, and how certain bands of UV light penetrate the skin and trigger mutations in genes that control how cells grow and divide.