Mouse models for unraveling the importance of diet in colon cancer prevention

J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Feb;21(2):77-88. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.09.014.


Diet and genetics are both considered important risk determinants for colorectal cancer, a leading cause of death worldwide. Several genetically engineered mouse models have been created, including the ApcMin mouse, to aid in the identification of key cancer related processes and to assist with the characterization of environmental factors, including the diet, which influence risk. Current research using these models provides evidence that several bioactive food components can inhibit genetically predisposed colorectal cancer, while others increase risk. Specifically, calorie restriction or increased exposure to n-3 fatty acids, sulforaphane, chafuroside, curcumin and dibenzoylmethane were reported protective. Total fat, calories and all-trans retinoic acid are associated with an increased risk. Unraveling the importance of specific dietary components in these models is complicated by the basal diet used, the quantity of test components provided and interactions among food components. Newer models are increasingly available to evaluate fundamental cellular processes, including DNA mismatch repair, immune function and inflammation as markers for colon cancer risk. Unfortunately, these models have been used infrequently to examine the influence of specific dietary components. The enhanced use of these models can shed mechanistic insights about the involvement of specific bioactive food and components and energy as determinants of colon cancer risk. However, the use of available mouse models to exactly represent processes important to human gastrointestinal cancers will remain a continued scientific challenge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Risk