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Eating vegetables can reduce lung cancer risk

Eating vegetables can reduce lung cancer risk May even provide some protection to smokers

A large study has found that a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may provide some protection against lung cancer, and for one particular type of the disease may even reduce the risk in smokers.

Of course, by far the best way to protect against lung cancer is to quit smoking, as smoking is considered to be the cause of over 90% of all lung cancers.

The new research analysed data from the large-scale European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Nearly half a million participants were evaluated - with 1,600 being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Information was obtained on 14 commonly eaten fruits and 26 commonly eaten vegetables. The fruits and vegetables evaluated in the EPIC study consisted of a wide variety of fresh, canned or dried products.

Previous results from the EPIC study showed that the quantity of vegetables and fruits may decrease risk of lung cancer; in particular the risk of one specific type of lung cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, decreased in current smokers.

Now the researchers have found that regardless of the amount of fruit and vegetables eaten, the variety of vegetables consumed also has an impact on lung cancer risk. This effect was most marked in the case of squamous cell carcinoma.

Commenting on the results, study author H. Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita explained: "Fruits and vegetables contain many different bioactive compounds, and it makes sense to assume that it is important that you not only eat the recommended amounts, but also consume a rich mix of these bioactive compounds by consuming a large variety."

This was echoed by Stephen Hecht, a Professor of Cancer Prevention at the University of Minnesota, who said that "The results are very interesting and demonstrate a protective effect in smokers. There are still over a billion smokers in the world, and many are addicted to nicotine and cannot stop in spite of their best efforts."

"Tobacco smoke contains a complex mixture of cancer causing agents. Therefore, a mixture of protective agents is needed to have any beneficial effect in reducing one's chance of lung cancer."

"Nevertheless, the public should be made aware and be reminded that the only proven way to reduce your risk for lung cancer is to avoid tobacco in all its forms," Dr Hecht warned.

The study is published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

This article was published on Wed 1 September 2010

Image © Irina Yun - Fotolia.com

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