Colon cancer: fat-burning genes influence the risk

Colon cancer: fat-burning genes influence the risk

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Do HNF4A and HNF4G increase the risk of colon cancer?

Genes that normally support the stem cells in the intestine to burn dietary fat seem to play an important role in the development of colon cancer.

The current study by Rutgers University-New Brunswick found that certain genes not only affect our fat burning, but are also linked to the development of colorectal cancer. The results of the study were published in the English language journal "Gastroenterology".

How do genes affect the behavior of stem cells in the gut?

The study describes a newly identified relationship between the way cells can absorb fat and how genes regulate the behavior of stem cells in the intestine of mice. Previous research by Rutgers University has already found that two genes called HNF4A and HNF4G work together to ensure the correct functioning of the intestinal mucosa.

Rise in stem cells increases susceptibility to colon cancer

The researchers found that too much dietary fat in the intestine contributes to an increase in stem cells and thus increases the susceptibility to colon cancer - a very important finding.

Gut stem cells are constantly renewed

Naturally, all humans actually lose millions of intestinal cells every day. The same applies to our skin cells. Our intestinal stem cells are constantly renewed and thus drive the continuous change in the lining of our intestine. A major problem, however, is that altered stem cell functions can lead to colon cancer.

How common is colorectal cancer?

Colon cancer (colon or colon cancer) is the third most common form of cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. An estimated 101,420 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

How many people develop colorectal cancer in Germany each year?

In Germany, colorectal cancer is the second most common form of cancer in both sexes. According to the Robert Koch Institute, approximately 35,400 men and 30,000 women develop bowel cancer each year. The risk of developing colon cancer in the course of life is around six percent.

A high-fat diet increases the number of intestinal stem cells

Recent studies have shown that the number of intestinal stem cells in animals can increase through a high-fat diet (Western diet). This could possibly explain an increased risk of cancer from such a diet, the researchers report.

Less intestinal stem cells due to inactive genes?

In their new study, the researchers found that mice lost intestinal stem cells when the HNF4A and HNF4G genes were inactive. These genes are believed to help stem cells burn fat and provide them with energy. Further studies that are already planned are to clarify whether these two genes change the number of stem cells and the risk of cancer during a high-fat diet. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Lei Chen, Roshan P. Vasoya, Natalie H. Toke, Aditya Parthasarathy, Shirley Luo et al .: HNF4 Regulates Fatty Acid Oxidation and is Required for Renewal of Intestinal Stem Cells in Mice, in Gastroenterology (query: November 25, 2019), Gastroenterology

Video: Colon Cancer with Dr. Howard Schecter: MD-VOD (November 2022).