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Is There an Anticancer Diet?

Eating Certain Fruits and Vegetables May Decrease Cancer Risk and Even Stop Its Growth
WebMD Health News

Diet and Cancer

Dec. 6, 2007 -- Certain fruits and vegetables may reduce your risk of cancer and may even help stop cancer in its tracks, according to new research.

While there's not really an "anticancer diet," eating plenty of certain fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of getting cancer, researchers reported today at the American Association for Cancer Research's Sixth Annual International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research in Philadelphia.

Their findings confirm and strengthen previous research that have linked a high intake of fruits and vegetables with a reduced cancer risk.

On the most recent "A" list: black raspberries for warding off esophageal cancer and raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli for preventing bladder cancer.

Despite the new findings, there are no "magic" foods, says Laura Kresty, PhD, assistant professor of nutrition at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State University, Columbus, and one of the presenters. "The big take-home message is, eat a variety [of fruits and vegetables]. Eat what is in season. The real goal is to try to increase your overall consumption of fruits and vegetables and the proportion of your diet that is made up of a plant-based diet."

Black Raspberries May Reduce Esophageal Cancer Risk

Eating black raspberries may protect people at high risk of getting cancer of the esophagus, Kresty and her colleagues found.  They had previously found that black raspberries in animal experiments inhibit cancers of the oral tract, esophagus, and colon.

The fruit probably does so, she says, by reducing oxidative stress -- the destruction done to cells by free radicals -- and by decreasing DNA damage and the growth rates of cells.

They decided to expand the study to high-risk patients with a precancerous condition in the esophagus called Barrett's esophagus. Those with the condition have a 30 to 40 times higher risk of getting esophageal cancer, Kresty says. The cancer is deadly, with only a 15% five-year survival rate.

In the study, 20 patients ate an ounce or an ounce and a half (more for the men) of freeze-dried black raspberries daily for 26 weeks. "We measured markers for oxidative stress," Kresty says. One of those is a substance called 8-Isoprostane, which is excreted in urine.

"At the end of the study, 58% of the patients had marked declines in the 8-Isoprostane," reflecting less oxidative stress. 

The researchers also looked at tissue levels of an enzyme called GSTpi, which helps detoxify carcinogens. They found that 37% of patients had an increase in this protective enzyme.

The fruit "appears protective," Kresty tells WebMD, although the study did not include long-term follow-up to see if fewer people actually got cancer.

Black raspberries, she says, are found in some grocery stores. "More commonly they are the type you pick," she says.

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