Recent Canadian research suggests that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help prevent pancreatic cancer. Among cancers, pancreatic tumors have one of the most dismal survival rates, with less than 5 percent of patients still alive 5 years after diagnosis.
The findings of this study, based on a comparison of 585 pancreatic cancer patients and over 4 000 adults without the disease, suggest that the risk of the cancer declines as fruit and vegetable intake increases.
Using data from a large study of Canadians diagnosed with cancer between 1994 and 1997, researchers found that higher intakes of fresh fruit and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, were associated with a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.
For reasons that are unclear, the relationship was confined to men; those with the highest fruit and vegetable intakes were about half as likely to develop pancreatic cancer as those with the lowest intakes. There was no clear association between diet and pancreatic cancer risk among women.
In this study, adults with high intakes of fruits and vegetables tended to favor fresh fruits like apples, oranges and cantaloupe, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Researchers note these foods are key sources of carotenoids and vitamin C, antioxidants that have been tied to lower pancreatic cancer risk.
It's thought that antioxidants may help ward off cancer by mopping up oxygen free radicals -- molecules that, though a natural byproduct of metabolism, can result in potentially disease-causing damage to cells over time.
Researchers note that with its often fatal course, the only way to address pancreatic cancer right now is through prevention, following a diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables may be one way to do this.
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