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How your gut bacteria may protect you from cancer

New research, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows how our diet influences the bacteria in our gut, which, in turn, can alter the behavior of our genes and the risk of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer type, after breast, lung, and prostate.

In 2017, the NCI estimated 135,430 new cases of this cancer, with more than 50,000 people dying from the disease.

New research deepens our understanding of the connection between gut bacteria and the risk of developing colorectal cancer and various infections.

The new study — led by Dr. Patrick Varga-Weisz, from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom — shows how gut bacteria can affect genes, which then influences disease risk.

Dr. Varga-Weisz and team carried out experiments with mice and human culture cells, focusing on the role of molecules called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in disease prevention.

SCFAs are produced by gut bacteria during the digestion of fruits and vegetables. They can move from the gut bacteria into our gut lining cells, affecting our genes and our cells’ behavior.

These crotonylations were produced by inhibiting a protein called HDAC2. Previous studies have shown that a high number of HDAC2 proteins may raise the risk of colorectal cancer.

Fruits and vegetables are key for producing SCFAs, and SCFAs help to regulate crotonylations.

So, the findings, explain the researchers, suggest that regulating crotonylation in the gut cells’ genome may prevent cancer, and that a healthful diet of fruit and vegetables is key for this prevention.

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