Excessive consumption of meat in aetiology of colorectal cancer

Authors: M. Vočka;  V. Bencko
Authors‘ workplace: Ústav hygieny a epidemiologie 1. lékařské fakulty Univerzity Karlovy a Všeobecné fakultní nemocnice v Praze ;  Přednosta: doc. MUDr. Milan Tuček, CSc.
Published in: Prakt. Lék. 2010; 90(1): 12-15
Category: Reviews


Colorectal cancer is one of the most common malignant neoplasms in the Czech Republic. 7,801 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in the country in 2006. This means that Czech males are ranked 2nd, and Czech females ranked 5th in Europe for the incidence of this type of cancer. Moreover, colorectal cancer is one of the most common causes of death by cancer patients in the Czech Republic. Nutrition plays a key role in the aetiopathogenesis of sporadic colorectal cancer, mainly the excessive consumption of red and processed meat. Fish has a protective effect on the colon and the consumption of poultry is not associated with any change of risk assessment. Proteins in meat influence the level of endogenous nitrosocompounds which originate from the digestion of HEM iron or proteins, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAUs) formed in meat during food processing at high temperatures, or increase of polyamine levels (putrescine, spermidine, spermine). Gene polymorphism of enzymes is also involved in the metabolism of HCAs and PAUs. Meat is also the main source of one important amino acid in carcinogenesis, arginine. Arginine is a key amino acid in two pathways:

– one mediated by inducible NO-synthase II, and

– the second pathway leads to the formation of ornithine, a precursor for putrescine formation (first step in polyamine synthesis).

Polyamines regulate gene expression and modulate signal transduction. They can alter the regulation of cell proliferation resulting in development of colorectal cancer. In terms of primary prevention is very desirable to restrict consumption of red and processed meat, especially smoked or otherwise modified and increase the intake of fish, which is thought to have a protective effect.

Key words:
colorectal cancer, meat, polyamines, arginine.


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