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Friday, 28th June 2013
In General Japan News,

Japanese cancer centre finds link between bacteria and liver cancer in obese patients

For some time scientists have been talking about a possible link between obesity and an increased risk of cancer, but until now the reasons for the apparent correlation have remained a matter of debate.

Now, a group of researchers at the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, have reported that a bacterium found in the intestines of obese people may be to blame for an increased incidence of liver cancer among the overweight.

The scientists have so far been experimenting with mice and gave a group of overweight and lean mice carcinogens to see how both groups would react. What they found was perhaps surprising.

They discovered that a bacterium known as clostridium had multiplied in excess of 3,000 times more in obese mice than it had in the control group.

The bacterium is thought to be damaging because it produces an acid which attacks DNA and makes the sufferer more susceptible to developing liver cancer.

Eiji Hara, molecular biologist at the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research in Tokyo, suggested that the results were not what she expected.

"I was very surprised by the process. We never expected that changes in the gut microbiota could cause the higher risk of cancer."

Speaking in an interview with, Peter Turnbaugh, a microbiologist from Harvard University, who was not involved in the study, suggested that the discovery could lead to improved treatments for patients.

He described the research as "very exciting" and said "if it's true that production of this acid leads to cancer, there could be ways to inhibit the production by manipulating diet or fine-tuning people's microbial communities".

Professor Turnbaugh warned that it may be some time before the results of the study could be used for any kind of meaningful treatment. Or, as he put it, "there's definitely a lot more to be learned first".

The Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research was established back in 1908 as the first institution of its kind in Japan.