In a study comparing two strains of mice -- one susceptible to developing cancer and the other not -- researchers found that a high-fat diet predisposed the cancer-susceptible strain to liver cancer.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Case Western Reserve University found that by switching to a low-fat diet early in the experiment, the same high-risk mice avoided the cancer malignancy.
The switched mice were lean rather than obese and had healthy livers at the end of the study.
The investigators studied hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer that is one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide. Thirty percent of cases of this type of liver cancer are associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and related metabolic diseases, although a direct link between these and liver cell cancer has not been completely established, the researchers said.
Senior co-author John Lambris of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine said the researchers hope the results will lead to the development of blood tests that can detect precancerous conditions related to diet.
The findings appear online this month in Human Molecular Genetics.