News

Link between cancer risk reduction and fruit and vegetable intake only weak?

April 7, 2010

The potential of fruit and vegetables to reduce the risk of cancer is only very weak, according to a new study.

The new study analyzed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the largest trial on diet and cancer including 142,605 men and 335,873 women (1). The participants were followed for an average of about nine years, during which time over 30,000 cases of cancer were diagnosed. The results showed that for every 200 grams (about two servings) of total fruits and vegetables eaten per day, the incidence of cancer was reduced by only 4 percent.

Multiple lines of evidence indicate that ionizing radiation and some other risk factors for cancer can operate primarily in childhood and early adult life; thus, antioxidants or other protective constituents of fruits and vegetables may need to be present at that time to be effective, the researcher commented. Like EPIC, almost all studies of diet and cancer have missed such effects because they started decades later in life, he wrote.

However, recommendations and actions to increase intake of fruits and vegetables have a sound basis with many studies reporting cardiovascular benefits, experts commented. It would still be a good idea to eat ‘five-a-day’ but it should be remembered that fruits and vegetables are pieces in a much larger lifestyle jigsaw. Things to lower chances of developing cancer include not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, cutting down on alcohol, eating a healthy balanced diet, being physically active and avoinding excess exposure to the sun.

References

  1. Willett W. C. Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer Prevention: Turmoil in the Produce Section. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2010.