Getting the Diet “Just Right” – Vitamins, Minerals and the Goldilocks Effect

Joel Mason, MD of Tufts University Medical Center kicked off the opening plenary session of the 2014 AICR Research Conference with a deep dive into one of the most intriguing and – to the public, at least – confusing and even frustrating areas of cancer prevention research.canstockphoto3912708

As scientists learn more about the interplay between diet and cancer risk, it’s clearer than ever that the role of many dietary factors in several cancers is more complex than was once thought.

The entire plenary session of our research conference is focusing on the notion of the “Goldilocks Effect”– the idea that, for several dietary factors, the old idea of “more is better” is flatly wrong. (In scientific circles, this phenomenon is known as the “U-shaped curve,” which describes the graph of dose-response observed as consumption of a given dietary factor increases – from high risk (low consumption) to lower risk (adequate consumption) and back to high risk (high consumption).

Mason spoke on folate as a case in point: Habitually low consumption of folate is associated with higher risk for colorectal and other cancers, as low folate levels increase genomic instability in cells. But in some cases, getting too much folate in the diet has also been linked, in animal models and in some human studies, to increased risk. He stressed, however, that this finding remains controversial, as the evidence for a risk-increasing effect for folate is by no means as consistent as the evidence for its protective role. But until we learn more, he advised that the general population stick to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to limit folic acid intake to less than 1000 mcgs/day. Continue reading


Our Research Conference Buzz Is About to Begin

Despite the warm temperatures it’s definitely autumn here in Washington, DC. With pumpkins on doorsteps, apples a-plenty and Halloween just around the corner – there is no mistaking the sights and smells of the season. For us here at AICR though, Fall means something else – it’s time for our 2014 Annual Research Conference!rescon-banner2-new-logo

In just a few hours we will welcome our delegates and I will have the pleasure of opening the first session.

It’s been a busy week in the office, making the final preparations to get to this point. Every department is involved in making it all happen and is excited to be part of what we consider to be the highlight of our year. We love the buzz of the conference – great presentations, hearing the latest research, meeting our grantees, talking with the poster presenters – along with delicious nourishment from cancer protective meals.

We are always gratified by the passion of the scientists working in this area – it helps us remember the importance and urgency of our mission and we always leave reinvigorated and inspired.

I hope to see many friends and colleagues there and for those who cannot join, please follow and join the conversation on social media. We’ll be posting on our blog several times a day – and tweeting from #AICR14.


Talking about Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Survivors

There are now over 3 million US breast cancer survivors, with the number of survivors only expected to increase in the years ahead. Today, a new report identified potential links oxn how diet, activity, and weight may affect survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer. McTiernan, Anne

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Survivors is part of an ongoing, systematic review called the Continuous Update Project (CUP). It’s the most rigorous analysis of the research on diet, weight and physical activity for breast cancer survivors, and it’s the first time a CUP report has focused on survivorship.

Here, Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, the panel lead of this CUP report and researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, talks about the report’s findings and what it means.

Q: What did the CUP report look at?

A: The report looked at associations between specific diet patterns and components, weight, and physical activity with mortality from all causes, mortality from breast cancer, and incidence of secondary breast cancer. This report did not look at associations of diet, physical activity, or weight with quality of life, fatigue and many other issues in which lifestyle factors may play a role. Continue reading