Dr Seán Millar, a post-doctoral researcher in the School of Public Health at University College Cork (UCC), investigated the contribution of diet and lifestyle factors to cancer risk in the Irish population, supported by a Breakthrough Cancer Research project award.

Certain biological markers have been shown to be associated with increased risk of cancer and cardiometabolic disease, including biomarkers of chronic low-grade inflammation. Consequently, many circulating biomarkers have been evaluated to determine disease risk and their relationships with obesity and certain individual lifestyle behaviours, particularly diet, have been examined. However, in previous studies, the focus on biomarker profiling in this context has been restricted to a narrow range of markers.

In this UCC research, which used a random sample of 2,047 middle-to-older aged men and women, protective lifestyle behaviours – which included never smoking, moderate alcohol intake, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, high-quality diet and healthy weight – were evaluated in relation to range of biomarkers (including pro-inflammatory cytokines, adipocytokines, acute-phase response proteins, coagulation factors, white blood cells and lipoprotein particle subclass size and concentration) to determine lifestyle factor relationships with biomarker concentrations and increased disease risk.

The research found lifestyle behaviours – especially diet – to be associated with inflammatory biomarkers. In addition, the study demonstrated a cumulative protective effect of healthy lifestyle behaviours against a less favourable metabolic profile that was independent of having a healthy body weight.

Dr Catherine Phillips, the principal investigator on this project, said: “We know that heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of mortality, that these conditions share many of the same risk factors and that cancer survivors are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Therefore, primary prevention of chronic conditions through modification of traditional risk factors is of paramount importance. Our research highlights the importance of protective lifestyle factors, including having a high-quality diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes and low in added sugar and fats), moderate alcohol consumption, being physically active (particularly at moderate intensity), not smoking and having a normal BMI, in terms of achieving more favourable biomarker profiles and potentially conferring cardioprotective effects.”

You can read more about Sean’s research is the following recently published papers;

Dietary Quality Determined by the Healthy Eating Index-2015 and Biomarkers of Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation: A Cross-Sectional Analysis in Middle-to-Older Aged Adults

Protective lifestyle behaviours and lipoprotein particle subclass profiles in a middle-to older-aged population

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