GLASGOW, Scotland, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Colon cancer was two to three times more likely to develop in mice with a faulty APC gene and fed high amounts of iron, researchers in Britain and Scotland say.
Researchers at Cancer Research UK at the University of Birmingham and the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, Scotland, said mice with a faulty APC gene fed a diet low in iron did not develop bowel cancer.
"We've made a huge step in understanding how bowel cancer develops. The APC gene is faulty in around eight out of 10 bowel cancers but until now we haven't known how this causes the disease," Owen Sansom of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow said in a statement. "It's clear that iron is playing a critical role in controlling the development of bowel cancer in people with a faulty APC gene."
The study might also explain why foods such as red meat, which have high levels of iron, are linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer.
In mice fed a diet with no iron, cells with a faulty APC gene were killed and bowel cancers did not develop, the study said. But, mice with a fully functioning APC gene did not develop bowel cancers, even when fed a diet high in iron, the researchers said.
The study was published in Cell Reports.