Two brothers die of cancer on the same day in the same hospital just hours apart

The tragic story of two Brazilian brothers succumbing to cancer in the same hospital, hours apart, raises broader questions about the increasing incidence of certain types of cancer among younger populations. Francisco Antunes Sobrinho, 52, and his younger brother, Eduardo Antunes da Silveira, 38, both died on August 19 after years of struggling with cancer.

Francisco was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2021, while Eduardo found out he had liver cancer just a month later. Although they were fighting their individual battles with cancer, their conditions worsened rapidly, leading to Eduardo being rushed to a hospital in Santa Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After spending four days in the hospital, Eduardo passed away. His older brother Francisco was admitted to the same hospital a few hours later and died in the same bed. Their other brother, João Antunes Neto, described their deaths as a great moment of suffering for the entire family.

This family tragedy comes amid increasing concerns about a rise in colorectal cancer among young Americans. Researchers at the Salk Institute and the University of California, San Diego, have conducted studies suggesting that high-fat diets could be a significant factor behind this uptick. Their research on mice indicates that high-fat diets change gut bacteria and alter molecules called bile acids. These changes trigger inflammation, which elevates the risk of developing colorectal cancer, a particularly hard-to-treat form of the disease.

In the past two decades, the cases of colorectal cancer in young people have inexplicably doubled. While other factors like sugar consumption, C-section births, and fungal infections have also been considered as possible contributors, the high-fat diet theory provides one of the first clues. Dr. Ronald Evans, the director of the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory, says the findings point towards how gut microbial populations can be altered by diet, increasing the risk of cancer.

The study did not specify the types of high-fat foods consumed by the mice but suggests that these were meant to mimic high-fat staples in the American diet, such as fast food. Dr. Evans’ prior research found that mice on high-fat diets had elevated bile acid levels. Bile acids are produced by the liver and help in the digestion and absorption of fats, cholesterol, and nutrients in the gut. The shift in bile acids due to a high-fat diet was found to deactivate a critical protein in the gut known as the Farnesoid X receptor (FXR), thereby increasing the likelihood of colorectal cancer.

While the study is still preliminary and conducted only on mice, it provides valuable insight into the link between diet and the increasing rates of certain cancers, underscoring the urgent need for further research and preventive measures.