Washington: US scientists have discovered a link between expanding waistlines and certain cancers, saying that excess fat is a key factor in the progression of the disease. Although diet is an important factor, the direct effect of excess fat tissue on tumours has to be considered, said Mikhail Kolonin, senior study author and associate professor of Regenerative Medicine at the Brown Foundation Institute, University of Texas.

"For the first time, we have demonstrated that excess fat is a key factor in cancer progression regardless of the diet  contributing to the extra weight," Kolonin said, the  journal Cancer Research reports.

The World Health Organisation reports that in 2008 there were more than 1.4 billion obese adults worldwide, with 7.6 million succumbing to cancer that year, according to a Texas statement. Tumours emit a signal that attracts progenitor cells from white adipose (fat) tissue in mouse models of cancer.

These cells in turn support the network of blood vessels that nourish tumours - a process called tumour angiogenesis.Like a stem cell, a progenitor cell can differentiate into a specific type of cell. Stem cells can replicate indefinitely, but progenitor cells can divide only a limited number of times.

"Our experiments show that fat progenitors are recruited by tumours, where they incorporate into blood vessels and become fat cells," said Yan Zhang, who led the study as research scientist at the UT Health Medical School."The next step in this research would be to inactivate fat progenitor cells in an effort to slow cancer progression," said Kolonin.


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