Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Cancer

Have you heard the latest news about fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk? New results from the European Prospective and Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study show that eating fruits and vegetables can reduce your cancer risk. Unfortunately, a lot of news sources are printing headlines that the study has shown a "relatively weak" protective effect (2.5% lower risk) from eating fruits and vegetables. I am hoping that most people don't use this as an excuse to eat fewer servings of fruits and vegetables! The American Institute for Cancer Research recently responded to these headlines by warning that many of these news articles are not giving people enough information about the study to interpret the results in a meaningful way.

According to AICR, here are three key reasons why fruits and vegetables should (still) feature prominently in your diet:

1) AICR recently published a landmark study on cancer and cancer prevention and they point out that we already knew that diet is not protective for all types of cancer. Their report found probable evidence linking fruit and vegetable consumption to cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, stomach, esophagus and lung. The strength of protection from fruit and vegetable consumption for these diseases is probably much higher than 2.5%. Since there has not been a link shown between other types of cancer and produce consumption, this is probably why the overall numbers look lower.

2) Even if the 2.5% decrease is accurate, if everyone ate just 2 more portions of produce per day, we would have 2.5% fewer cancers (about 37,000 cases every year in the US). I am sure any of those 37,000 people would rather have eaten more fruits and vegetables instead of getting cancer.

3) There are many other benefits to eating lots of fruits and veggies. People who load up their plates with plant products are less likely to become overweight. Being overweight is a risk factor for cancer, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases.

Are you interested in learning more about diet and cancer? AICR offers free brochures (up to six at a time) or downloads providing information on topics ranging from eating smart for cancer prevention, antioxidants, or even information for those with cancer. Many of their brochures are also available in Spanish. Go to to check out their materials.

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