From Cabbage to Garlic: Veggie and Fruit Variety May Prevent Lung Cancer

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For smokers, there is no question that quitting smoking is the most important way to reduce the risk of getting lung cancer. (Smoking accounts for about 90 percent of lung cancer cases.) But a large new study suggests that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help prevent the disease, especially for smokers.

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; go here to read the abstract.

In the study, researchers used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), a study of about half a million participants in 10 European countries. The scientists separated participants by categories depending upon how many of 14 fruits and 26 vegetables they had eaten in a two-week period. Those in the top category ate between 23 and 40 different types of fruits and vegetables; those in the lowest category ate less than 10 different types.

After following participants for an average of almost 9 years, the study found that – regardless of the amount – increasing variety of fruits and vegetables was linked with reduced risk of lung cancer, especially for smokers. Consuming the greatest mix of vegetables reduced the risk of lung cancer 27 percent among current smokers. And smokers who ate the greatest variety of fruits and veggies were significantly less likely to get squamous cell lung cancer, a common type of lung cancer.

Because each fruit and vegetable contains a unique set of bioactive compounds, the study authors note that consuming a wide variety as well as the recommended amounts makes sense for health benefits.

Previous research has suggested the quantity of fruits and vegetables may also play a role in reducing lung cancer risk. AICR’s expert report found that diets high in fruit and foods containing carotenoids probably lower the risk of lung cancer. Carotenoids, often yellow or orange-colored, are found in many fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.

For those who want strategies on adding different fruits and veggies to your meals, visit AICR’s Test Kitchen.

For anyone who needs help quitting smoking, the National Cancer Institute has a site that may help.


    Author: Mya Nelson

    Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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