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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - Tonight's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment could forever change the way you think about cancer and the foods you eat.

Many people eat fewer calories every day in the hopes of living longer.

But now it seems lowering the amount of protein you eat every day could have a much bigger effect on reducing your risk of cancer and disease.

"I think this is a major breakthrough," said Washington University Researcher Dr. Luigi Fontana.

Dr. Fontana is a researcher at Washington University who believes high levels of something in our bodies called "insulin-like growth factor one" is a major contributor to the rise in cancer rates. He calls it IGF-1 for short.

As evidence, he points to people who follow a calorie-restrictive diet. When they were asked to lower their protein intake from 24 percent of their daily calories to around 10 percent, their levels of IGF-1 dropped. It's something that's already been proven in animal studies.

"The new data are suggesting animals that have lower IGF-1, they live 50 to 60 percent longer, so it's not only important for cancer but also for longevity possibly," said Dr. Fontana.

Now he is working on proving high levels of IGF-1 are linked to increases in breast, colon and prostate cancer in humans.

"To test this hypothesis we are now conducting a study here at Washington University in the Department of Urology, with Dr. Gerald Andriole, to test hypothesis that lowering protein intake to a normal level, not below normal is basically slowing or blocking prostate cancer.

Normal, according to Fontana, is the USDA's recommended 10 percent of calories from protein a day.

"Now in the U.S. people are eating 50 to 100 percent more protein than is recommended," said Dr. Fontana. "And now with the Atkins, Southbeach diet people are eating even more because now the idea is protein are safe protein are good, more protein more strength."

But he believes his studies will show that eating less protein will actually lead to long lives and fewer cases of cancer.

For information about participating inDr. Fontana's prostate cancer study, contact study coordinator Dana Romo at 314-362-2399.

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