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By-Product of Cholesterol Can Fuel Breast Cancer

Update Date: Nov 29, 2013 08:47 AM EST

A by-product of cholesterol might encourage the growth of breast cancer, a new study has found.

The study makes the fact more evident that obesity is one of the major risk factors for breast cancer. Normally women take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins which are new being thought as a measure for cancer prevention.

In earlier research, it has been observed that the fat in overweight people can pump out hormones (i.e. estrogen) which are responsible for the growth of cancers.

Scientists observed the same phenomenon. A team of researchers at Duke University Medical Centre, in the US noticed that cholesterol was being broken down in the body into 27HC. It can mimic oestrogen and produced similar effect as the hormone in some tissues.

The experiment was performed on mice. It showed that a high fat diet increased levels 27HC in blood. This led to tumors that were 30% larger than in mice on a normal diet, BBC reported.

"A lot of studies have shown a connection between obesity and breast cancer, and specifically that elevated cholesterol is associated with breast cancer risk, but no mechanism has been identified.

“What we have now found is a molecule - not cholesterol itself, but an abundant metabolite of cholesterol - called 27HC that mimics the hormone oestrogen and can independently drive the growth of breast cancer,” said one of the researchers Prof Donald McDonnell, according to BBC.

A part of the study also indicates that having healthier diet can decrease the risks of cancer.

"Up until now research into the links between cholesterol levels, use of statins and breast cancer risk has been inconclusive.

“The results from this early study are promising and if confirmed through further research could increase our understanding of what causes some breast cancers to develop,” said Dr Hannah Bridges, from leading charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, according to BBC.

The study has been published in the journal Science.

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