Elevated fat and cholesterol levels in diet may play a role in breast cancer development

December 18, 2015

The researchers also showed that plasma cholesterol levels in experimental mice that developed tumors were significantly reduced compared to a group of "wild-type" mice - animals with no predisposition to develop tumors - that was also fed a cholesterol-rich diet. "This suggests that tumor formation was responsible for the reduction in blood cholesterol levels observed in our animals," indicates Dr. Frank.

Dr. Frank explains the use of cholesterol in breast tumors this way: "In a neighborhood, if you want to build more houses, you need more bricks. In tumors, cholesterol provides the bricks that are the foundation for further growth, and this cholesterol comes from the blood. A drop in blood cholesterol may signify that some tumors are growing as cholesterol provides support for breast cancer growth."

"These data provide new evidence for an increase in cholesterol utilization by breast tumors and thus provides many new avenues for prevention, screening, and treatment," indicates Dr. Frank. These findings suggest that use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, may both protect against breast cancer as well as treat patients carrying tumors. Since researchers also found that blood cholesterol levels dropped significantly as tumors began to develop, the study indicates measuring blood cholesterol levels may also be an effective method of screening cancer development.

This research team also discovered the same association between cholesterol and growth of prostate cancer in mice in a study published in the December issue of The American Journal of Pathology. The results of these two new studies indicate, according to Dr. Frank that, "Cholesterol does indeed seem to be an important factor in the regulation of tumor formation in several cancer types."

Source: Thomas Jefferson University