Immune function and cancer

The diet is believed to play an important role in the onset of carcinogenesis, and there are a number of carcinogens present in food, including mycotoxins, polycyclic hydrocarbons, and pesticides. Associations have been made between dietary fat intake and morbidity and mortality from breast and colon cancer. Another possible mechanism for the proposed protective effects against cancer of olive oil compared with sunflower oil involves diet-induced alterations in host immune responses. Both the type and concentration of dietary fats have been reported to influence immune status in several animal models. The PUFA C18:2 is necessary for T-cell-mediated immunity, but high intakes will suppress immune function and may therefore increase the risk of cancer. Furthermore, comparisons between the effects of diets rich in C18:2 and those rich in C18:1 on varying indicators of immune function in mice have shown that, while dietary C18:2 predisposed animals to suppression of certain T-cell-mediated reactions, diets rich in C18:1 did not. MUFA may therefore have a significant effect in humans against cancer, by lowering the risk of suppression of T-cell activity.

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