Rochester Science

Before you eat that pumpkin pie: @URMC boffins discover a link between cholesterol and cancer.

The fall season is upon us Rochesterians, and you know what that means! A crisp “Red Delicious”, the crunch of fallen leaves on your morning commute (you go walkers!) and the steamy pool of cheese dripping, meat loaded, tasty chili.

But for Rochester and abroad, the University of Rochester Medical Center may have just put a damper on the New York fall fiesta. Out with a new study linking high cholesterol levels with a higher risk of cancer, members of the Rochester community may begin to take a second look at their dietary choices.

So come on, eat a handful of almonds, for your own good! Yeah it sounds a bit morbid, but hey, so is dieting.

From early on in the 20th century, scientists have been searching for a link between cancer and high cholesterol. It was not until very recently that they finally found what they were looking for – evidence proving their theory.

The data, published in the online journal Cell Reports, support several recent population-based studies that suggest individuals who take cholesterol-lowering drugs may have a reduced risk of cancer, and, conversely that individuals with the highest levels of cholesterol seem to have an elevated risk of cancer.

This new data is a stepping-stone for researchers, but most importantly, the human population as a whole.  Although not all scientists agree with the university’s conclusions, thanks to the U of R Medical Researchers, the combative fight against cancer may be forever changed.

Chiefly found in saturated fats, cholesterol is a compound produced in the body’s cells after intake. Animal based food products, such as eggs and cheese, have higher amounts of cholesterol and thus hold a greater risk factor for clogging arteries.

According to Hartmut (Hucky) Land (PH.D), head author of the groundbreaking study, and his partner Bradley Smith (PH.D), a gene found in cells called ABCA1 can be a preventative agent against cancer. A “cooperation response gene”, ABCA1 is essential in identifying cell strain and deterring cancerous tumor growth in cellular structures.

Without functioning ABCA1, fatty cholesterol is able to form excessively in mitochondria – the energy-producing organelle within a cell – creating structural rigidness on the outside of the cell. Simply put, ABCA1 can no longer control cholesterol levels and detect cell stress, thus unable to act as a barrier to cancerous abnormalities in cells.

Thanks to the recent discovery by the University of Rochester Medical Center, people across the world will learn the importance that low cholesterol has on their health. With more research, cholesterol-controlling medicines may soon take on a new role in treating and preventing cancer.

So with a sip of our herbal tea, and a pair of bean shoots in our hands, we can toast to science. But if we must, (and sometimes we must) let’s stick to one slice of Granny’s Pumpkin Pie. Or better yet, just eat an apple.