One in six cancers is caused by conditions of chronic inflammation. In particular, a major study has shown that this catastrophic impact of inflammation is due to damage to the genetic material of cells caused by free radicals, which promotes cancer progression and accelerates aging. Several observations suggest that there is a very strong link between chronic inflammation and the risk of developing cancer. One of the best examples of this association is undoubtedly the dramatic increase (10 times) the risk colon cancer in people with inflammatory bowel disease, especially ulcerative colitis. Inflammation caused by infectious agents can also have a significant impact on cancer, including infection of the stomach lining with Helicobacter pylori. Moreover, this bacterium constitutes a major public health problem, infecting 29% of the world population and being directly responsible 5% of all cancers worldwide.
The mechanism of inflammation severely damages DNA
How can inflammation affect cancer risk so much? A big step in understanding this relationship has been taken thanks to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Researchers have observed that inflammation causes the formation of free radicals, highly active molecules that damage constituents of genetic material (DNA). Under normal conditions, such damage is recognized and can be repaired by our defense systems, which limits the damage. However, these defense systems do not work optimally in a number of people and DNA damage can then cause mutations to appear which will ultimately lead to the development of cancer. Since it is impossible to know whether we have a good or a bad repair system, it goes without saying that everything should be done to avoid as much as possible the presence of inflammatory conditions in our body.
The three parameters that reduce inflammation
Inflammation is not always associated with pain or infections, but it can also occur chronically without symptoms. Smoking, obesity, excessive food consumption are all conditions that generate an atmosphere of inflammation in our tissues and, therefore, promote the development of cancer. It is therefore possible to reduce the risk of being affected by cancer by modifying certain parameters of our lifestyle in order to reduce inflammation.
Three simple actions to decrease inflammation:
- Quit smoking: the toxic products of cigarettes are powerful inflammatories.
- Increase the consumption of plants: certain foods of plant origin contain molecules that have very powerful anti-inflammatory properties. For example, many studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory activity of the curcumin of the Indian spice turmeric or of the gingerol present in ginger plays an important role in the anticancer action of these foods. These anti-inflammatory effects are not however restricted to these spices, but are on the contrary a characteristic of several fruits and vegetables, in particular small fruits like red fruits.
- Consume Omega-3s: Another way to reduce chronic inflammation through diet is to increase the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids as much as possible. Omega-3s are very powerful natural anti-inflammatory molecules that are found in large quantities in certain very specific foods such as oily fish (herring, salmon, sardines) and vegetable grains (flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts in particular). Increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids prevents the creation of a climate of chronic inflammation in our tissues.
Meira et al. DNA damage induced by chronic inflammation contributes to colon carcinogenesis in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 10. 1172 / JCI 8480
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