Cancer Prevention and Control Program (CPCP) and department of epidemiology and biostatistics researchers at the University of South Carolina (Drs. Nitin Shivappa, Susan E. Steck, and James R. Hébert), along with three co-authors from the University of Minnesota (Drs. Anna E. Prizment, Cindy K. Blair, David R. Jacobs, Jr.), were recently recognized at the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research (AARC) Annual Meeting in April. Their paper, titled Dietary Inflammatory Index and Risk of Colorectal Cancer in the Iowa Women’s Health Study and published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention, was named one of the most highly cited research articles of 2014 for the journal.
Fittingly, this particular study focused on one of the team’s most recognized areas of expertise: inflammation (i.e., the result of the body’s response to tissue insult or injury or the presence of inflammatory stimulants) and particularly, dietary-induced inflammation. Over the past 10 years, CPCP, which is directed by Dr. Hébert, has conducted numerous studies that link inflammation to health outcomes, such as early onset of chronic diseases, disability and premature death. They have even translated their findings into their copyrighted dietary inflammatory index (DII), which ranks foods and macronutrients according to their inflammatory properties.
“Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention is a ‘go-to’ journal for cancer epidemiologists, experts in preventive medicine, and those exploring the utility of biomarkers in cancer research. As such, it has one of the highest impact factors of any specialty journal in epidemiology,” says Dr. Hébert. “I think that the very high citation rate for this particular paper underscores the growing interest within the scientific community in the relationship between chronic inflammation and cancer.”
For this study, the researchers applied DII to one of their other areas of expertise, colorectal cancer, which is third most common cancer in the United States. Further, some research has suggested that dietary components, and chronic inflammation specifically, may play a role in this and other cancers. As part of their core mission to help prevent cancer, the CPCP researchers determined colorectal cancer to be an excellent candidate for testing DII applications.
“Over the past several years there has been greatly heightened interest in the role of chronic inflammation in cancer etiology,” Dr. Hébert says. “At the same time, it is becoming clear that diet is an important modulator of inflammation. So this interest in diet, as a modifiable behavior, inflammation and cancer makes sense given that inflammation is a ‘substrate’ on which a number of important cancer-related mechanisms operate including oxidative and nitrative DNA damage, changes in gene expression and genetic instability, and blunted immune response.”