Magazine article Science News

Cancer: Pare Protein to Spare the Kidneys

Magazine article Science News

Cancer: Pare Protein to Spare the Kidneys

Article excerpt

As lethal malignancies go, kidney cancer does not make the Top 10 list. Even in incidence, it ranks about 12th in the United States, below such cancers as uterine, ovarian, oral, bladder, melanoma, and pancreatic. However, over the past 25 years, cases of kidney cancer have been climbing steadily -- by about 2 percent annually This year, it's expected to strike more than 27,600 individuals in the United States and to claim some 11,300 lives.

A new study now suggests that a penchant for protein may be fueling the cancer's ascent.

Over the years, few clear-cut risk factors other than cigarette smoking and obesity have emerged for kidney cancer. However, several previous studies have suggested that eating patterns -- principally, diets high in animal fat, meat, and milk -- might be linked to the disease. Hoping to resolve the role of diet, Wong-Ho Chow of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and his coworkers administered a detailed questionnaire to 690 kidney cancer patients in Minnesota (or their next of kin) and to 707 demographically matched, cancerfree volunteers.

In the Aug. 3 JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE, Chow's team reports that after accounting for each subject's age, sex, smoking, weight, and average calorie intake, only diets high in protein--from all sources, including plants -- increased an individual's risk of developing kidney cancer.

The researchers divided their study population into four groups, or quartiles, on the basis of how much of any analyzed nutrient each subject consumed. Those in the highest quartile of total protein consumption faced almost twice the kidney cancer risk of those in the lowest quartile. What's more, the increase in risk with protein consumption occurred independent of calories, the researchers observe -- "particularly when caloric consumption was above the median intake. …

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