(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – High dietary iron and a faulty Apc gene increase the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a team of UK researchers. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Luminal Iron Levels Govern Intestinal Tumorigenesis after Apc Loss In Vivo,” which was published in Cell Reports on August 9.

The design of this study is based on previous epidemiological evidence that demonstrated an association between the concentration of iron in the body and the risk of colorectal cancer. In this study, the investigators aimed to deduce the mechanisms by which excess iron increases colon cancer risk, the source of the excess iron, and whether iron reduction represents a potential therapeutic option for colon cancer.

The investigators reported several results for this study. They deleted the Apc gene. Mutations in, or loss of, this gene had been previously shown to be associated with the histological switch from adenoma to carcinoma, a clinical hallmark of colorectal cancer. Deletion of the Apc gene led to rapid expression of 2 proteins that transport iron into bowel cells. Restoration of Apc gene function returned the iron inside bowel cells back to normal levels.

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More importantly, the investigators used a mouse model of colon cancer to show that a low iron diet does not lead to development of colorectal tumors, whereas a high iron diet is tumorigenic. The results of this study may explain the high incidence of colorectal cancer in individuals with diets high in red meat, which is iron rich.

The investigators concluded that health care providers should not prescribe dietary iron supplements to patients at high risk of colorectal cancer.