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Prostate cancer: In mice, “forever chemicals” and a high-fat diet increased tumors

eating high fat diet
According to new research in mice, a high-fat diet combined with exposure to so-called everlasting chemicals may accelerate prostate cancer development.
  • In both mouse and cell culture models, researchers looked at the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure and a high fat diet on prostate cells.
  • When male mice who had been implanted with malignant prostate cancer cells ate a high-fat diet and were exposed to PFAS, their tumors grew faster.
  • In a cell culture, tumor-forming prostate cells reproduced roughly three times as much after being exposed to PFAS.
  • This mouse-and-cell-culture study could affect future healthcare expert advice to avoid PFAS-containing items, especially for men.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, prostate cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in men and the fourth most common overall. In 2018, 1.3 million new cases of prostate cancer were recorded worldwide.

According to previous study, dietary fat in the average Western diet can aid the spread of prostate cancer tumors. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that a high-fat diet combined with increased PFAS exposure can hasten the development of prostate cancers.

The research was published in the journal Nutrients.

What Are PFAS?

PFAS are a class of compounds developed by humans to withstand grease, oil, water, and heat. As a stain-repellent coating on food packaging and cooking equipment, manufacturers typically utilize a combination of these compounds. PFAS can be found in the following foods:

  • nonstick coatings on pots and pans
  • fast food wrappers and containers
  • stain- and water-resistant carpeting and other fabrics
  • firefighting foam and heat-resistant protective gear
  • paints and sealants

When people dump PFAS, which are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not disintegrate, they have the potential to pollute the land and water around them. People may be exposed to PFAS as a result of this contamination. PFAS may contaminate the drinking water of 200 million people in the United States, according to a research published last year.

People can be exposed to PFAS in the following ways:

  • drinking contaminated water
  • eating fish that were living in contaminated water
  • eating food covered in paper and other packaging containing PFAS
  • coming into contact with contaminated soil or dust

Workers who make PFAS-containing products, as well as firemen who are exposed to PFAS through their protective gear and firefighting foam, are at risk.

Researchers are still unsure about the total effect of PFAS exposure on the body, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. PFAS exposure, on the other hand, has been linked to the following symptoms in the past:

  • higher cancer risk
  • higher levels of cholesterol
  • immune system issues
  • interference with hormones and some major organs, such as the liver

PFAS and high fat diet exposure

A mouse model was employed in the study by Dr. Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her research team.

They fed some of the male mice a high-fat diet akin to a typical Western diet, often known as the Standard American Diet, which has been linked to obesity and neurodegenerative diseases in previous research. The others followed a standard diet.

The researchers introduced prostate cancer epithelial cells into the animals 10 days after the diets began. They then started giving some of the mice the PFAS chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) orally seven days a week.

Researchers also exposed non-tumor-forming and tumor-forming human prostate cells floating in growth media to varied doses of PFOS or perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), another member of the PFAS chemical family, for two days as part of the study.

Researchers discovered that tumor-forming prostate cells exposed to PFOS reproduced at three times the rate of those not exposed to PFBS after two days.

The researchers noticed an increase in tumor volume in mice exposed to either PFOS or a high fat diet after 40 days in the mouse model. The mice subjected to a combination of PFOS and a high fat diet reportedly grew tumors at the quickest rate.

Influencing future recommendations

Dr. Madak-Erdogan and her colleagues believe that PFAS interact with dietary fat to activate a protein-coding gene called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor, based on their findings. This leads cells to metabolize in a way that raises the risk of carcinogenesis in benign prostate cells while also increasing tumor growth in malignant prostate cells.

Dr. Madak-Erdogan told Medical News Today that her findings will influence future healthcare professional advice to avoid PFAS-containing items, particularly for men. “Our studies provide a basis to reduce PFAS exposure through food wrapping, particularly those used for fast foods or food with high fat content, or occupational exposures,” she noted.

Dr. Mehran Movassaghi, a urologist and director of men’s health at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, and an assistant professor of urology at Saint John’s Cancer Institute, was also interviewed by MNT. He claims that this is a problem that affects both men and women.

“It’s a general health issue […]. A lot of different chemicals found in plastics are known to be carcinogens, and this is just essentially more evidence.”

Regarding a high-fat diet, Dr. Movassaghi stated that the findings of the study can assist medical professionals in guiding patients toward the optimum diet for cancer prevention.

He expressed particular reservations about the ketogenic diet, which has grown in popularity during the last five years. “It’s concerning because a lot of people look at that as an opportunity to regain control of their health,” he said.

“And in the short term, while they may be able to lose weight, in the long term, we don’t know what the effects will be — whether it be on cardiac disease, dyslipidemia, or related to cancer. It’s important when someone [is] seeking out […] the optimal diet to point to certain studies like these and say although this is not a proven fact, there are definitely things that point to its [being] dangerous, especially if someone decides this is their lifestyle.”

Dr. Madak-Erdogan also believes that this research will provide light on how PFAS and high-fat diets may affect other cancers. “We now have a pretty good basis to look into other types of cancers, including colorectal cancer or breast cancer, which are highly associated with high fat diet consumption,” she explained.

Dr. Madak-research Erdogan’s goals for the future include delving deeper into the molecular underpinnings of PFAS and high-fat diet synergy, as well as investigating this interaction in additional cancers linked to a high-fat diet.