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BOSTON (Oct. 10, 2018)–Studies in mice have demonstrated that obesity-induced inflammation contributes to the risk of colorectal cancer, but evidence in humans has been scarce. A new study shows that two inflammatory proteins in the colon increase in parallel with increasing weight in humans. An incremental rise in these pro-inflammatory proteins (called cytokines) was observed along the entire spectrum of subjects’ weights, which extended from lean to obese individuals. In participants with obesity, there was evidence that two pre-cancerous cellular pathways known to be triggered by these cytokines were also activated.

The study, while modest in size, provides new evidence that obesity promotes cancer through inflammation. Secondary findings suggest that NSAIDS lower the levels of pro-inflammatory proteins in the colon, regardless of a person’s weight. The study is published online in advance of print in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Led by Joel B. Mason, M.D., a gastroenterologist who studies nutrition and cancer prevention at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (HNRCA), the study included 42 Caucasian participants. Sixteen research participants were lean, with a BMI between 18.1 and 24.9, while 26 participants with obesity had a BMI

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