According to research from Cornell University in New York, studies carried out on nutrition and genetics in mice can help us to gain a greater understanding of how bowel cancers develop. This can be done by identifying a gene that increases the risk of bowel cancer in mice when the animals’ diets are deficient in folate. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in food.
The study, which is published in the March issue of Cancer Research journal, provides evidence that a combination of both folate deficiency and reduced expression of the SHMT1 gene, which is required for DNA synthesis, increases the risk of bowel cancer in laboratory mice. The SHMT1 gene may be a factor in itself; however dietary folate can interact with an individual’s genetic make up to increase the risk of bowel cancer.
Professor Patrick Stover, Division of Nutritional Sciences and the senior author of the paper states that "Nutrition and genetics work together to contribute to the creation of cancer cells and, based on the similarity of folate metabolism in mice and humans, it is likely that this gene is associated with human colon cancer,"
A lack of folate has the potential to increase DNA damage which can ultimately result in transforming normal cells into cancerous cells. To reduce this risk it is recommended that adequate amounts of folate are taken in through the diet, which can include eating foods such as fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Bowel cancer is the third most common form of cancer within the UK.