Dietary iron supplementation enhances DSS-induced colitis and associated colorectal carcinoma development in mice

Dig Dis Sci. 2002 Jun;47(6):1266-78. doi: 10.1023/a:1015362228659.


Chronic ulcerative colitis (UC) patients frequently require iron supplementation to remedy anemia due to blood loss. However, the effect of iron supplementation on UC-associated carcinogenesis is unknown. In this study, the effect of an iron-enriched diet on dextran sulfate sodium-induced acute and chronic colitis in mice was assessed. In a short-term study, mice administered 1% DSS in the drinking fluid and an AIN76A diet containing increasing levels of iron exhibited dose-dependent increases in the severity of acute UC as compared to mice fed a control diet. A marked increase in iron deposition on the epithelial surface of the colon and in the inflamed areas and immunostaining for iNOS and nitrotyrosine were observed in the animals supplemented with diets containing different levels of iron. In a long-term carcinogenesis experiment, a twofold iron-enriched diet significantly increased colorectal tumor incidence (14/16, 88%) as compared with animals fed the control diet (3/16, 19%; P < 0.001). The present findings have implications for the management of human UC and suggest that dietary iron can enhance UC and its associated carcinogenesis by augmenting oxidative and nitrosative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / complications*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / physiopathology
  • Colon / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Dextran Sulfate / toxicity
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Iron, Dietary / adverse effects*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oxidative Stress


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Dextran Sulfate