a healthy weight has long been touted as one of
the best ways to prevent cancer, but one Colorado
State University researcher wants to know more.
Henry Thompson, director of CSU's Cancer Prevention
Laboratory, wants to know if it's the diet or
the exercise that helps prevent cancer, and he's
going to spend a $1.3 million National Institutes
of Health grant during the next four years to
try to find the answer.
Thompson has specialized in breast cancer during
his career. Except for skin cancer, breast cancer
is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer
in women, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. An estimated 40,580 women
died from breast cancer in 2004, and 215,990 women
were diagnosed with it during that same year.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in
the United States.
||PREVENTING CANCER: Nick Fernandez,
left, a mechanical engineer graduate research associate
at CSU, and Henry Thompson, professor and director
of Cancer Prevention Lab at CSU, go over the continuing
revisions of the motorized activity wheel that is
sitting on the desk in front of them Friday. The
project examines exercise and energy intake in breast
Gaining 10 pounds
after age 30 significantly increases an adult's
risk of cancer, Thompson said, but researchers
aren't clear why 10 pounds seems to be the threshold.
When it comes to cancer prevention, there are
many unanswered questions, he said.
Thompson wants to focus on the changes a body
goes through as a person becomes overweight.
"Rather than being distracted by the fatness,
we are focusing on the journey," Thompson said.
Thompson works regularly with women who are either
breast cancer survivors or have a history of breast
cancer in their families. But much of his research
starts in a lab with mice.
With the help from College of Engineering students,
Thompson developed a clear, plastic box with an
exercise wheel inside that is hooked to a computer.
As a mouse turns on the wheel, food pellets are
dispensed into the box.
This system allows Thompson to control and track
the amount of exercise of each mouse.
"We have complete control of both the food intake
and the energy expended," Thompson said.
The mouse and the machines will allow Thompson
to answer questions - in terms of cancer prevention
- such as whether running is better than walking,
if long exercise sessions are better than short
ones and if frequent exercise is more beneficial
than sporadic sessions.
"People want to know the answers to these questions
yesterday," Thompson said.
If Thompson were to use humans, the tests could
take up to seven years to complete.
"I'm looking to get answers to these provocative
questions in months, not years, so we can transfer
that information to the community," Thompson said.