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The findings, "Epigenetic Differences in Normal Colon Mucosa of Cancer Patients Suggest Altered Dietary Metabolic Pathways," were published in the March issue of the American Association for Cancer Research's journal, Cancer Prevention Research.
"There have always been questions about why things like diet and obesity are independent risk factors for colon cancer," said Carmen Sapienza, professor of pathology in Temple's Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology, the study's lead author. "This study suggests how and why high fat diets are linked to colon cancer."
The researchers compared colon tissue in non-colon cancer patients with normal colon tissue in patients with the disease. In the normal tissue from patients with colon cancer, they found that epigenetic marks on genes involved in breaking down carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids — abundant in the fatty Western diet — appeared to have been retrained. Epigenetic marks are chemical modifications that serve as on/off switches for many genes.