The Nature Science Journal has today published research showing that a high fat diet may increase metastatic cancer spread.
The study showed that tumours (such as in ovarian, oral and bladder cancer), along with melanomas, were more likely to spread when exposed to a high fat diet.
The research is based on the discovery of a protein called CD36 in cancer cells that metastasise (spread).
This protein was found to be dependent on fatty acids, where other tumour cells are not. When tested on mice with a type of oral cancer, 50% were found to have larger and more frequent metastasis when exposed to a high fat diet.
They also introduced a specific saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid found in high levels in palm oil, which is used in many products such as peanut butter.
Researchers again found that cancer spread further and more quickly in the mice if treated with palmitic acid.
Ross Little, healthcare projects manager at Ovarian Cancer Action said: “This is very promising research that shows a possible direct link between increased fat intake and metastatic cancer spread in women with ovarian cancer.
It is more difficult to treat ovarian cancer when the disease spreads, and survival rates are much lower where greater metastases is seen.
More research is now needed to find out the true effects of this on human tumour cells, and how these findings can be used to help stop ovarian cancer spreading so quickly and aggressively.
This research also reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and limiting saturated fat intake.”
The study was funded by Worldwide Cancer Research and carried out by scientists at the Institute for Research in Barcelona.