Carrots, Tomatoes keep lung cancer away

Harvard researchers have published the results of a large study that suggests that adults who consume a variety of carotenoids have a significantly lower risk of developing lung cancer than those who do not consume as much [AJCN 2000;72:990-997]. Carotenoids are antioxidants that block DNA and cellular membrane damage otherwise caused by free radical activity and the oxidative stress that it creates. More specifically, after surveying people's dietary habits and following up with them 10 to 12 years later, the study found that individuals whose diet contained the largest amount of lycopene (a carotenoid found in tomatoes) and alpha-carotene (a compound found in carrots) experienced the greatest preventive benefit. Meanwhile, a 63% reduction in risk was noted in non-smokers who consumed the most alpha-carotene. Smokers, on the other hand, benefitted primarily from lycopene, but not from other carotenoids.

Other researchers have previously pointed out that, because a number of carotenoids exist in different concentrations in different vegetables, it is more advantageous to consume a variety of vegetables. For example, an earlier study by investigators at the University of Hawaii's Cancer Research Center, which compared men and women with lung cancer with healthy controls, found that subjects who had a high median intake of three carotenoids found in vegetables (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein) had the lowest risk of lung cancer [Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 1993 May-Jun; 2(3):183-187]. The researchers commented that, consistent with their previous findings, "This analysis provides further evidence for a protective effect of certain carotenoids against lung cancer and for the greater protection afforded by consuming a variety of vegetables compared to only foods rich in a particular carotenoid."

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Earlier research has also demonstrated that a high intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, appears to improve lung function in general, when compared to below-average consumption [Thorax 1999;54:1021-1026]. Data was collected from over 3000 men (ages 40 to 59 when the study began), during the 1960s in Finland, Italy and the Netherlands. The results led the researchers to conclude that vitamins C and E and beta-carotene were responsible for fighting damage in the airways.

Meanwhile, much evidence has surfaced to suggest that carotenoids are a means of prevention for different forms of cancer, not exclusively lung cancer. Consider, for example, that a two-year study from Uruguay reported that vitamin A (which is converted from beta-carotene), alpha-carotene and lycopene were associated with a strong inverse relationship to stomach cancer [Eur J Cancer Prey 2000 Oct;9(5):329-334]. The study, which compared 120 cases of confirmed stomach cancer with 360 controls in relation to the role of diet, also found that joint intake of alpha-carotene and vitamin C translated into a sharply reduced risk of gastric cancer.

The Harvard researchers comment, however, that eating more carrots or tomatoes does not compare to not smoking as a means of preventing lung cancer.

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By Angela Pirisi

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ShyanneT's picture

There are lots of ways to prevent one self from having lung cancer such as consuming these healthy foods. More Americans die from cancer of the lung than any form of the disease. Medical experts say the best way to stay away from cancer of the lung is to either never smoke cigarettes or stop smoking them. Here is the proof: CT scan for lung cancer screening dramatically reduces death rate A cancer testing with a CT scan will improve the odds of survival for smokers better than a screening with the more traditional chest x-ray.