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


New AICR/WCRF Report: Obesity Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk

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A new report we’ve released today suggests that staying a healthy weight may offer women a relatively modest — but significant — protection against ovarian cancer, one of the most deadly cancers for women.

The findings of AICR/WCRF’s latest Continuous Update Project report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer, means that ovarian cancer now joins the list of cancers linked to obesity. Research now shows that excess body fat links to increased risk of  eight cancers, including postmenopausal breast, colorectal and pancreatic.

For the report, scientists analyzed all relevant studies that investigated ovarian cancer’s link to diet, physical activity and weight. There were 25 studies related to weight, including four million women.

The report concluded that every five increments of BMI increased women’s risk 6 percent. That risk started on the high end of overweight, towards the obesity category, which starts at a BMI of 30. That means for two women both 5 feet 5 inches tall with all other factors equal, the woman weighing 200 pounds would be at 6 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than her counterpart at 170 pounds. Continue reading


In Memoriam: Dr. John Milner

All of us at the American Institute for Cancer Research are grieving the loss of our dear friend and colleague Dr. John Milner, who passed away suddenly on New Year’s Eve.

Dr. Milner was a tireless, eloquent and impassioned champion of research into nutrition’s role in cancer risk. We will rememberNo Slide Title him as a true leader whose combination of dedication, intellect and personal charm brought experts from many different fields together. His warm and garrulous presence, and his sage advice, will be greatly missed.

Dr. Milner was a longtime friend to AICR, serving for many years as a member of our grant review panel and our research conference planning committee.

During his time as chief of the National Cancer Institute’s Nutrition Science Research Group, where he helped shape the nation’s scientific inquiry into diet and cancer prevention, he served as the NCI observer for the Expert Panel that authored the AICR/WCRF report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective.

His involvement in the field of nutrition dates back to his student days at Oklahoma State University, when a work-study job in a research laboratory triggered a lifelong interest in fighting disease. After earning his PhD from Cornell University, Milner was recruited for the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he met Mary Frances Picciano, PhD, who would later become his wife. Continue reading