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Red meat molecule may raise cancer risk

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Washington : Eating red meat may elevate the risk of cancer because it contains a chemical that is unnatural to human biology, researchers, including those of Indian-origin, suggest, reports PTI.

While people who eat a lot of red meat are known to be at higher risk for certain cancers, other carnivores are not, prompting researchers at the University of California, San Diego to investigate the possible tumour-forming role of a sugar called Neu5Gc, which is naturally found in most mammals but not in humans.

Scientists found that feeding Neu5Gc to mice engineered to be deficient in the sugar (like humans) significantly promoted spontaneous cancers. The study did not involve exposure to carcinogens or artificially inducing cancers, further implicating Neu5Gc as a key link between red meat consumption and cancer.


“Until now, all of our evidence linking Neu5Gc to cancer was circumstantial or indirectly predicted from somewhat artificial experimental setups,” said principal investigator Ajit Varki, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and member of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Centre.

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