Meaty Diet Linked to Pancreatic Cancer
But Green Tea May Protect Against Prostate Cancer
Meat Processing Methods May Be Culprit
Figuring that the high fat content in processed and red meat must be to blame, the researchers next looked at the relationship between fat intake and pancreatic cancer.
But heavy consumption of fats or saturated fats did not increase risk, Nothlings says.
The most likely culprit: the preparation method, she says. Other studies have suggested that chemical reactions that occur during processing and cooking meats can yield cancer-causing substances.
William Nelson, MD, PhD, professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, agrees. "These findings are a nudge toward making a recommendation that fish and poultry, safely cooked by baking and steaming, may help prevent cancer," he tells WebMD. Nelson moderated a news conference at which the studies were discussed during the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.
For the green tea study, researchers looked at 62 men with precancerous prostate cells. About 30% of these men with this condition would be expected to develop prostate cancer within a year, says Saverio Bettuzzi, PhD, a cancer researcher at the University of Parma in Italy.
But antioxidant compounds in green tea called catechins could change all that, he tells WebMD. Catechins are present in only very small amounts in black tea; most are lost during the processing.
Bettuzzi gave half the men a capsule containing 600 milligrams of green tea catechins daily, the equivalent of about 15 cups of green tea. The rest got placebos.
After one year, 30% of men treated with a placebo developed prostate cancer as expected, he says.
But only 3% of the men given the green tea capsules developed prostate cancer.
"We said, 'Wow!'" Bettuzzi says. "This is a 90% reduction. Now, that's impressive."
Time to Take Your Supplement?
While the researchers studied men with a precancerous condition, Bettuzzi says "we would expect a good result in healthy men as well."
The next step, Bettuzzi says, will be a large study of about 300 men to confirm the findings.
In the meantime, it won't hurt to stock up on green tea, Nelson says. "But it's too soon to recommend supplements," he tells WebMD.