Fruits & Veggies: Eat to Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

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If you need yet another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables, researchers at the University of Montreal have served up this finding: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce men's risk of developing pancreatic cancer, an especially deadly type of tumor.

The scientists looked at data from a large study of Canadian cancer cases. They compared the diets of 585 pancreatic cancer victims to those of 4,779 adults without the disease. After adjusting for other risk factors, high consumption of fresh fruits and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage was associated with a 49 percent reduction in pancreatic cancer risk. That's the difference in risk between the group that ate the most fruits and vegetables and the subject group that consumed the least.

For reasons the researchers couldn't readily explain, the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and reduced pancreatic cancer risk was found only among men.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the poorest post-diagnosis survival rates among all types of tumors. Five years after diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, fewer than five percent of patients are still alive, in part because the disease is rarely caught early. That's one reason identifying the modifiable risk factors for pancreatic cancer is so important, according to Parviz Ghadirian, PhD, an epidemiologist who was one of the authors of the study. The only practical way to address pancreatic cancer, Ghadirian says, is through prevention--by not smoking and now, possibly, by eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

Fresh fruits, such as apples, oranges and cantaloupe, and cruciferous vegetables are good sources of vitamin C and of plant compounds called carotenoids, some of which the body converts to vitamin A. Both vitamin C and A have been studied for antioxidant properties, which may fight disease by mopping up cell-damaging free radicals in the body.

The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, also looked for links between pancreatic cancer risk and what researchers labeled a "Western" diet (characterized by high intake of processed meats, sweets, desserts, refined grains and potatoes) and high consumption of liquor, wine and beer. No significant associations were found for either of these dietary patterns, although a previous study found increased risk from consuming processed meat. A large new study by the University of Hawaii and University of Southern California also recently found that men and women who consumed the most processed meat had a 67 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The University of Montreal researchers also found evidence that lycopene-obtained mostly from tomatoes and tomato products-protects against pancreatic cancer in men. Lycopene is another carotenoid compound. Previous research has shown that lyocopene may have a preventive effect against prostate cancer; this study adds to the incentive for men to load up on tomatoes.

Did you know… UCLA testing found that the popular tea brands with the most antioxidants were Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow and Uncle Lee's green tea, then Lipton black.

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