Colon Cancer Prevention: How genes interact with nutrition and lifestyle
Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2021)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (June 7, 2021)
A study published in the April 2021 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition illustrates perfectly what I have been citing and teaching over the past 35-40 years. When the human genome project was first undertaken scientists and doctors were quite certain that once sequenced it would reveal which specific gene mutations were the direct cause of specific age-related degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer. Much to their surprise it showed the opposite. There is no one gene mutation that causes age-related Alzheimer’s disease, but rather a collection of gene variants that interact in a way that creates an increased risk. These gene interactions are very complex, and no one knows yet exactly how they influence each other. To complicate matters further, not everyone with these gene variants develops Alzheimer’s disease. Rather, a person’s diet, activity level, and other lifestyle factors are shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease even in people that have a collection of these high-risk gene variants. And the same appears to be true for most cases of colon cancer, as illustrated by the study I’m citing today.
In this study of almost 350,000 participants in the UK Biobank Study, researchers observed that in individuals who had high genetic risk scores for colon cancer, based on the multiple number of gene variants linked to increased risk of colon cancer, those who had high Healthy Lifestyle Scores had a 40% reduced risk of developing colon cancer compared to those, who had the same genetic variants for the disease, but whose Lifestyle Scores were much less healthy. In other words, in most cases, genes don’t act alone and predetermine that you are going to develop colon cancer, and many other degenerative diseases. Rather, it is the interaction between our genes and our lifestyle patterns that trigger or prevent the onset of many of these degenerative conditions. In the UK Biobank Study, in high genetic risk cases for colon cancer, individuals who were more active, had better body shape measurements with less body fat, who avoided processed meat and red meat intake, who ate more vegetables and fruit, drank no or little alcohol and who did not smoke, showed a 40% reduced risk of developing colon cancer compared to those who had less healthy lifestyle patterns and body shape measurements. Put another way, individuals who had more unhealthy lifestyle practices had a 40% greater risk of developing colon cancer, genetic risk factors being equal.
The point here is that in most cases our genes are not our destiny. Your wellness game plan matters, not only to your longevity, but also to your healthy life expectancy – the number of years you hope to have a highly functioning body and mind. So be mindful of your diet and lifestyle patterns – they really do matter in the long run. I included the reference for this research paper in the text below.
Jungyoon Choi, Guochong Jia, Wanqing Wen, Xiao-Ou Shu, Wei Zheng. Healthy lifestyles, genetic modifiers, and colorectal cancer risk: a prospective cohort study in the UK Biobank. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021; 113 (4):
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.