“We tend to silo ourselves in our research, but there are a number of risk factors shared in these three diseases,” said Tim Byers, the CU Cancer Center’s associate director for cancer prevention and control.
The direct link was correlated to obesity which is a major cancer risk factor, likely causing about 20 percent of cancers of the breast, esophagus, colon, kidney, endometrium, pancreas, and gall bladder in the United States. Overweight and obesity contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, causing 58 percent of type 2 diabetes and 21 percent of heart disease (according to the World Heart Federation). Other risk factors include tobacco, diet quality, physical activity and alcohol use.
“Obesity leads to a chronic inflammatory state and circulating growth factors that have adverse effects on the heart, and can also contribute to the development of cancer. But we tend to study these things in isolation, by disease and not by risk factor. The intention of this symposium is to plant a seed of thought that maybe, as cancer researchers, we should pay more attention to the subtleties of the epidemiology of other diseases,” said Byers.
“I was recently talking to a cardiovascular disease epidemiologist about cytokines – small proteins that can make inflammation and are jacked up in obesity,” said Byers. “It turns out that in cancer we had focused on one kind of cytokine and in cardiovascular disease, they had focused on another. There was no good reason for the difference – it’s just what was in the literature.”
“Understanding the similarities and differences in how these risk factors create cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease could aid the ways we prevent all three diseases,” said Byers.