One in six cancers is caused by chronic inflammatory conditions. In particular, a major study has shown that this catastrophic impact of inflammation is due to damage to the genetic material of cells caused by free radicals, which promotes the progression of cancer and accelerates aging. Several observations suggest the existence of a very close link between chronic inflammation and the risk of developing cancer. One of the best examples of this association is arguably the dramatic (20-fold) increased risk of colon cancer in people affected by inflammatory bowel disease, particularly ulcerative colitis. Inflammation caused by infectious agents can also have a significant impact on cancer, including infection of the stomach lining by Helicobacter pylori. Moreover, this bacterium is a major public health problem, infecting 50% of the world’s population and being directly responsible for 5% of all cancers worldwide.

The mechanism of inflammation severely damages DNA

How can inflammation influence cancer risk so much? A big step in understanding this relationship has been made thanks to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Researchers have observed that inflammation causes the formation of free radicals, very active molecules that damage the constituents of genetic material (DNA). Under normal conditions, such damage is recognized and can be repaired by our defense systems, thereby limiting the damage. However, these defense systems do not function optimally in a certain number of people and DNA damage can then cause the appearance of mutations that will ultimately lead to the development of cancer. Since it is impossible to know if we have a good or a bad repair system, it goes without saying that we must do everything to avoid as much as possible the presence of inflammatory conditions in our organism.

The three parameters that reduce inflammation

Inflammation is not always associated with pain or infections, but it can also occur chronically without symptoms. Smoking, obesity, excessive consumption of food are all conditions that generate a climate of inflammation in our tissues and which, therefore, favor the development of cancer. It is therefore possible to reduce the risk of being affected by cancer by modifying certain parameters of our lifestyle in order to reduce inflammation.

Three simple actions to decrease inflammation:

  1. Quit smoking: the toxic products of cigarettes are powerful inflammatories.
  2. Increase the consumption of plants: certain foods of plant origin contain molecules that have very powerful anti-inflammatory properties. For example, many studies have shown that the anti-inflammatory activity of curcumin from the Indian spice turmeric or gingerol present in ginger plays an important role in the anti-cancer action of these foods. These anti-inflammatory effects, however, are not restricted to these spices, but are instead a characteristic of many fruits and vegetables, especially small fruits such as red fruits.
  3. Consuming omega-3s: Another way to reduce chronic inflammation through diet is to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as much as possible. Omega-3s are very powerful natural anti-inflammatory molecules that are found in large quantities in certain very specific foods such as fatty fish (herring, salmon, sardines) and certain plants (flaxseed, chia and walnuts in particular). Increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids prevents the creation of a climate of chronic inflammation in our tissues.


Meira et al. DNA damage induced by chronic inflammation contributes to colon carcinogenesis in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 10.1172/JCI35073

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