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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Veggies in Diet May Cut Lung Cancer Risk

Benefit may include current smokers, study shows

Findings Differed for Men, Women

Men's lung cancer risk was lower for all three types of plant compounds that were studied.

That included two types of phytoestrogens (isoflavones and lignans), as well as phytosterols, a similar type of plant compound linked to vegetable oils, margarines, spreads, grains, and certain fruits and vegetables.

However, women's lung cancer risk dropped most when the researchers looked at the big picture of all three plant compounds, not the specific plant compounds studied.

Women who consumed a lot of phytoestrogens and also took hormone therapy had fewer cases of lung cancer than those not taking hormone therapy, the study shows.

Study's Limits

Lots of factors can affect a person's cancer risk. This study doesn't claim to have all the answers, and diet's role has been debated.

For instance, a 2003 study from the Netherlands showed that eating lots of phytoestrogens may not prevent breast cancer.

People don't always perfectly recall their diets. No one was told to eat certain foods to try to prevent lung cancer. That's partly why the researchers call for more work on the topic.

Education, body mass index (BMI), and income were taken into account. Supplement use, family history of cancer, exercise, and alcohol use weren't noted.

Food Guide

The American Cancer Society recommends eating a variety of healthful foods, especially plant-based foods. That includes consuming at least five daily servings of various vegetables and fruits and choosing whole grains over processed (refined) grains or sugars.

Curious about the foods and plant compounds in Schabath's study? Items included:

  • Snow peas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Tofu
  • Tea (black or green)
  • Coffee
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Dark breads
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salads made with lettuce
  • Strawberries
  • Flaxseed
  • Onions
  • Shakes that contained isoflavones

Coffee and teas watered down the results a bit. When these drinks were included, lung cancer risk was 24% lower for people with the highest intake of all phytoestrogens combined, compared to 46% lower for those with the highest phytoestrogen intake from food sources alone.

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