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Inflammation and malignancy

In the first part of the ‘over-fat causes cancer’ blog, it is clear that having excess body fat contributes to the development of cancer through the hormone estrogen. Along with higher estrogen, excessive body fat causes inflammation.

It is a well known fact that belly fat produces many different substances, including adiponectin, leptin, and inflammatory messengers called cytokines, one of which is Interleukin 6 (IL-6). IL-6 has many effects, including the regulation of different malignant tumors of the prostate, lung, breast, liver, stomach and lymphatic tissues.

All cells of the body have the ability to commit suicide when they are damaged, have outlived their usefulness, or have become too old. This process of programmed cell death is called apoptosis. However, when this programmed cell death fails to happen, cells can do more harm than good.

This is a common scenario seen in cancer and tumor development. Mutated cells, as well as cells growing out of control, have turned off this suicide program, allowing them to survive in the body.

Researchers have found that higher levels of IL-6 in the body override the process of apoptosis in certain cancer-cell lines including stomach, colorectal cancer, and lymphomas. IL-6 is also involved in another process called angiogenesis. In order for cancerous tissue to survive, it needs a constant source of fuel.

To provide that fuel, tiny tumors develop their own blood supply; that is angiogenesis. The inflammatory cytokine IL-6 communicates with cancerous tissues, which then spit out a chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Just as it sounds, VEGF talks to local blood vessels causing them to sprout new blood vessel directed to the cancer cells and/or tiny tumor.

Inflammation via IL-6 contributes to a tumors blood supply and prevents them from committing suicide which immortalized cancer cells – not a good prognosis.

The link between being over-fat and the initiation, progression and eventual spread of cancer (metastasis) is becoming clear. Adipose tissue causes systemic inflammation in the body along with alterations in hormones.

These metabolic problems associated with an unhealthful body composition are linked to many forms of cancer, not just its initial development, but also its long-term prognosis. In fact, researchers are finding that increased body weight is associated with increased death rates for all cancers combined, as well as for cancers at multiple specific sites.

That’s profound! Being over-fat is not just a cosmetic issue; it is a killer. 

References:
Inflammation and Cancer: IL-6 and STAT3 Complete the Link, Cancer Cell 15, February 3, 2009

IL-6 inhibits apoptosis and retains oxidative DNA lesions in human gastric cancer AGS cells through up-regulation of anti-apoptotic gene mcl-1
Interleukin-6 promotes cervical tumor growth by VEGF-dependent angiogenesis via a STAT3 pathway; Oncogene (2003) 22, 1517-1527