Fri Apr 1, 2005 12:24 PM ET
By Amy Norton
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research from Canada suggests that a
diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help prevent pancreatic cancer,
a particularly deadly type of tumor.
The findings, based on a comparison of 585 pancreatic cancer patients
and about 4,779 adults without the disease, suggest that the risk of
the cancer declines as fruit and vegetable intake increases.
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 poor prognosis is in large part due to the fact that
the disease is rarely caught early.
Because of this, uncovering the modifiable risk factors for the
disease is vital, according to Dr. Parviz Ghadirian of the University
of Montreal, one of the authors of the new study.
Using data from a large study of Canadians diagnosed with cancer
between 1994 and 1997, Ghadirian and his colleagues found that higher
intakes of fresh fruit and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli
and cauliflower, were associated with a lower risk of pancreatic
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
The findings, published in the International Journal of Cancer, add to
a growing body of evidence on the role of diet in pancreatic cancer
risk. Some research has tied higher consumption of fruits, vegetables
and fiber to a lower risk of the disease, while other studies have
suggested that diets heavy in saturated fat, salted meats or dairy
products may raise the risk.
In the current study all of the subjects filled out questionnaires on
their lifestyle habits, which included reporting how often they'd
eaten various foods over the previous two years.
In a separate newly published study of the same group, Ghadirian and
his colleagues found that the antioxidant lycopene, specifically,
appeared protective against pancreatic cancer -- again, only men.
Lycopene, obtained mainly through tomatoes and tomato products,
belongs to a family of plant compounds called carotenoids, some of
which are converted in the body to the antioxidant vitamin A.