An Apple a Day for Cancer
Eat Your Spinach,
Broccoli, and Apples for Cancer Prevention
Oct. 18, 2004 -- An apple a day plus a
veggie-intensive diet are the stars of new cancer prevention studies.
The findings are being presented at the annual
Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference in Seattle.
A chemical in apples helped prevent colon cancer in
laboratory and animal studies, reports lead researcher Francis Raul,
PhD, research director of the French National Institute for Health and
Medical Research in Strasbourg, France.
Three or more servings of vegetables a day -- potatoes
not included -- reduced risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by 40%, says lead
researcher Linda Kelemen, RD, ScD, with the Mayo Clinic College of
Medicine. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma occurs when cells in the lymph nodes --
small organs that help fight off infection -- divide and grow out of
"It's been estimated that up to one-third of cancers
are related to food we eat. ... That's a lot of preventable cancers,"
Kelemen said in a news teleconference held today. Antioxidants in fruits
and vegetables protect the body from damaging free radicals "like
rust-proofing your car."
Apples and Cancer Prevention
In the apple studies, Raul first exposed cancer cells
to various antioxidants found in apples. They found that one type of
antioxidant, called procyanidins, triggered a series of cell signals
that resulted in cancer cell death.
In an experiment with laboratory rats, the rats were
exposed to colon cancer-causing substances and then fed a mixture of
water and apple procyanidins. Rats getting "apple water" for six weeks
had half the number of precancerous lesions in their colons compared
with rats eating the regular diet.
The finding "suggests that eating the whole apple,
including the skin, might offer some [cancer prevention] benefits," says
Cyanidins are also found in abundance in red wine and
Cancer Prevention and Veggies
In their study, Kelemen and her colleagues identified
450 men and women between ages 20 and 74 diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's
lymphoma. Each provided diet information in a survey. She compared the
cancer patients' diets with a group of people without cancer.
Those who ate both green leafy and cruciferous
vegetables got "particularly strong" cancer prevention protection, she
reports. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower,
and Brussels sprouts.
The daily diet of the cancer-free people included:
- One serving (one cup) daily of greens like spinach
- One-half cup of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or
Also getting good marks in cancer prevention: Whole
fruits, yellow-orange-red vegetables, and processed tomato products like
tomato sauce and juice. However, the cancer risk reduction was not
significant, says Kelemen.
As for specific nutrients and vitamins:
- Selenium and zinc have some cancer prevention
- Individual vitamins like A, C, E, individual
carotenoids (like beta-carotene) and retinol (promoted as a vitamin A
booster) did not lower cancer risk.
"If more people ate at least three servings of
vegetables per day, there would be substantial reduction of cancer
rate," Kelemen added. "Why wait until you get cancer to change your
eating habits? Do it now, when you're healthy, so you can stay healthy.
Set a good example for your children. Grocery stores and supermarkets
offer prewashed, ready-to-eat vegetables. Some have salad bars with
already prepared fruits and vegetables. They are just as costly as
buying fast food and a lot healthier."
SOURCES: American Association
for Cancer Research Third Annual International Conference on Frontiers
in Cancer Prevention Research, Seattle, Oct. 16-20, 2004. News release,
American Association for Cancer Research. WebMD Medical Reference from
Healthwise: "Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma."