Saturated fat tied to small intestine cancers

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Diets high in saturated fat appear to increase the risk of cancer of the small intestine, a study shows.

The small intestine makes up 75 percent of the digestive tract, yet rarely do cancers develop there, more often showing up in the large intestine, or colon.

“Identifying modifiable risk factors for cancer of the small intestine is important not only because the incidence of this cancer is on the rise, but it may enable us to further understand other gastrointestinal malignancies,” study chief Dr. Amanda J. Cross, from the National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, said in a statement.

Findings from several studies have linked consumption of red and processed meats with colon cancer, but the association with small intestine cancer has received relatively little attention and has not been examined in a “forward-looking” prospective study.

Using data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, the research team examined dietary associations with small intestine cancer in half a million men and women. Food frequency questionnaires were used to gauge meat and fat intake and the subjects were followed for up to 8 years for cancer.

During follow-up, 60 people developed adenocarcinomas and 80 developed gastric carcinoid tumors — a rare type of stomach cancer.

No statistically significant association between red or processed meat intake and small intestine malignancies was seen, the investigators report.

Saturated fat intake, on the other hand, was positively associated with the development of carcinoid tumors. Relative to people with the lowest intake of saturated fat, those with the highest intake had a 3.18-fold increased risk of carcinoid tumors.

SOURCE: Cancer Research, November 15, 2008.

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