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Colorectal cancer is not just due to the yummy processed meats, blame genetics, too: Study

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Processed meat lovers beware. Scientists have found that people who have inherited a common type of gene may face higher risks of colorectal cancer.

Medical professionals and scientists have been aware that eating processed meat can raise the odds of a person getting colon cancer for almost ten years now. However, a team of researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center  have found that genetics may also play a key role in the development of colorectal cancer.

The researchers found a certain gene variant that could cause a marked increase in the risks of developing this type of cancer. The worrying part of the new research is that fact that the gene variant in question is actually quite common. Scientists say that one in every three people carry this gene variant. The researchers published their findings in the online journal PLOS Genetics.

"We're still very early on in understanding these links between genetics and dietary factors and how they impact the risk for colorectal cancer and other diseases," said Dr. Ulrike Peters from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Peters and her colleagues also found that people who regularly ate processed meat products like bacon, salami, hotdogs and sausages were at risk. Moreover, the presence of the gene variant identified by the researchers could increase the risk two-fold.

"Our results suggest that genetic variants may interact with diet and in combination affect colorectal cancer risk, which may have important implications in the future for personalized cancer care and provide novel insights into prevention strategies," says the study.

The team analyzed around 2.7 million possible genetic variants they found in a sample size of around 18,000 people from around the world. The team also took into consideration dietary habits and hereditary information from 9,287 patients who were suffering from colon cancer while comparing the results to another group of 9,117 cancer free individuals.

Medical professionals have been aware of the possible interactions between diet, genetics and certain types of cancer. However, more research is needed in order to gain a better understanding on how these different factors interact to cause cancer in the human body. Further study is complicated by the fact that some types of cancers more strongly affected by genetic factors compared to others. Moreover, there are also certain types of cancers that are more dependent on environmental factors.

"Colorectal cancer is in the middle," Peters said. "It's a complex disease. So it's in most cases not just one factor that determines whether a person develops cancer."

Peters and her team say that little is currently known about the genetic variant they found. The actual function of the variant is also unknown. 

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