You’ve heard it a gazillion times that obesity is a risk factor for several types of cancer. Numerous studies in the past have shown that excess body fatness is a contributor to the risk of developing eleven cancers. While it is well established now that being overweight or obese increases cancer risk, little was understood, until now, about how belly fat actually affects cancer risk.
The current research might provide some insight into why belly fat could cause cancer.
Belly Fat Protein is the Culprit
Researchers from the Michigan State University (MSU) in the US have found that belly fat releases a certain protein that enables growth of cancerous cells.
Excess belly fat, also known as visceral fat or abdominal fat, accumulate across the internal organs like the liver, pancreas, and intestines. As per the MSU researchers, this type of fat in the body is more metabolically active which releases a big amount of inflammatory substances that can cause a normal cell to transform in a cancerous one.
Top Layer of Belly Fat More Likely to Blame
When compared to top layer of fat lying just under the skin (as subcutaneous fat), a lower layer of belly fat (visceral fat) is the more likely to blame, the researchers claim after finding that it secretes even more of this protein and stimulate tumor growth.
“While there have been several advances in treating cancer and improving the quality of life of patients, the number of new cases continues to surge,” said lead author of the study Jamie Bernard, assistant professor at MSU.
“It’s important to understand the cause so we can do a better job at reducing the number of cancer cases using dietary modifications or therapeutic interventions,” said Bernard.
To reach their findings, the research team fed mice a diet rich in fat and after analysing their cells the team discovered that lower layer of belly fat produced higher levels of a protein called fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF2) when compared to the subcutaneous fat. According to the researchers, this protein has the potential to change skin and breast cells into cancerous cells and cause them to grow into tumors.