An early obesogenic environment and prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australian men. Like many other cancers, obesity increases the risk of developing prostate cancer. Increasing evidence suggests that maternal obesity, often a result of a high fat diet is a cause of high birth weight offspring. High birth weight offspring are more likely to be obese as adults; and birth weight and adult obesity are both positively associated with cancer risk. The aim of our research is to investigate if exposure to a high fat diet early in life increases the risk of cancer later in life. We also want to determine how this may occur so we can test simple dietary interventions to reverse or prevent this increased risk. With obesity increasing worldwide it is very important to determine how we can prevent the increased risk of cancer in this and future generations.
What we aim to achieve
If we can provide direct evidence that a maternal high fat diet increases the risk of cancer in adult offspring we can then identify how this happens. In doing so we will either find ways to identify these individuals at an increased risk of developing cancer or ways to prevent or delay the cancer. It is highly likely that we can use simple dietary interventions, provided they are given at the right time, to prevent or delay the increased risk of developing cancer associated with an exposure to a high fat diet early in life. This will benefit the community immensely.
Our next steps and milestones
Cancer Council SA's funding was essential to provide direct evidence between maternal high fat diet and subsequent cancer risk in male offspring. The next step is to identify the molecular mechanisms involved and test these in human samples.
What motivates me
I am motivated by the challenge of working out how exposures early in life (in utero) impacts on offspring cancer risk and potentially cancer risk of subsequent generations. Cancer impacts the individual and their surrounding family and friends immensely so being able to identify what we can do very early on to prevent or minimise our risk of cancer would be ideal. I am motivated by adding new knowledge to cancer research so one day we can minimise the harmful impact of this disease.
My message to supporters
Research involving identifying risk factors for cancer is extremely challenging, and even more so when investigating exposures that have occurred 40-50 years before cancer develops. Performing this research in humans adds another additional layer of complexity. I am extremely grateful for the generous supporters of Cancer Council SA that have made this research possible. I hope to continue to investigate how early life diet impacts future cancer risk in humans. Prevention is definitely the way forward especially with the high rate of obesity in Australia.