Fruits and Vegetables Fight Off Cancer

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter
Monday, April 16, 2007; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News) -- If you want to reduce your risk of several common types of cancer, help may be no farther away than your kitchen.

A trio of new studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on Sunday found that vegetables and fruits help lower your chances of getting head and neck, breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

One of the studies even found that just one additional serving of vegetables or fruits could help lower the risk of head and neck cancer. Still, the more fruits and vegetables you can consume, the better.

"Those who ate six servings of fruit and vegetables per 1,000 calories had a 29 percent decreased risk relative to those who had 1.5 servings," said Neal Freedman, a Cancer Prevention Fellow in the division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute and author of one of the studies.

Freedman looked at how the fruit and vegetable intake compared to the incidence of head and neck cancer is 490,802 adults. During the five-year study period, 787 people were diagnosed with head and neck cancers.

After adjusting the data to account for smoking and alcohol use -- known head and neck cancer risk factors -- the researchers found that those who consumed the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest risk for head and neck cancers. Vegetables appeared to offer more cancer prevention than fruits alone did.

Adding just one serving of fruit or vegetables per each 1,000 calories consumed daily resulted in a 6 percent reduction of risk, Freedman said.

"Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol use protects against head and neck cancer. Our results suggest that increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables may also contribute to reduced head and neck cancer risk, and add support to current dietary recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable consumption," Freedman noted.

"I think Americans fall pretty short of the recommendations [for fruit and vegetable consumption]," said Tara Miller, program manager for the Center for Corporate Wellness at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "So, it's good news that only an extra serving a day could make a difference."

In the second study, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted lab experiments to see if broccoli and soy protein offered any protection against more aggressive breast and ovarian cancers.

When consumed together, digesting broccoli and soy forms a compound called diindolylmethane (DIM). In the lab experiments, the researchers found that DIM could affect the motility of breast and ovarian cancer cells, which could help keep cancers from spreading.

Miller said one concern about soy is that it may be a problem for people with estrogen-fueled cancers, because soy acts like estrogen in the body. She said soy is a nutritious, healthy food, but she recommends eating it in moderation.

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