Eating cabbage, cooking meat with garlic and smearing your skin with
extract of broccoli can all help reduce the risk of cancer, scientists have
A series of studies presented yesterday to the annual meeting of the
American Association for Cancer Research add to the burgeoning evidence that
changing your diet may be among the most effective ways of prolonging your life.
Up to a third of cancers are thought to be associated with diet. Experts say
eating more fruit and vegetables is the second most effective way to cut the
risk of cancer, after not smoking.
In the latest studies, researchers from the University of New Mexico investigated
the rapid rise in breast cancer among Polish women who emigrated to the US.
The risk of breast cancer was three times higher among Polish women living in
America than in their counterparts at home, suggesting a strong environmental
Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak and colleagues evaluated the diet of Polish immigrants
living in the Chicago and Detroit areas. They found that those who ate raw or
short-cooked cabbage three times a week had a significantly reduced risk of
breast cancer compared with those who ate less than one serving a week.
In Poland, women eat 30lb of cabbage and sauerkraut a year, compared with 10lb
a year for US women. Those who ate most cabbage during adolescence had the lowest
rates of cancer. If cabbage is not to your taste, you could try rubbing an extract
from it on your skin. Scientists from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore
found it halved the rate of skin cancer in mice. Cabbage is a member of the
brassica family which includes broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. These
vegetables contain glucosinolates which are broken down by chewing or cutting
into sulphoraphane, which has been shown in previous studies to have anti-cancer
Albena Dinkova-Kostova and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University applied
an extract of sulphoraphane made from broccoli sprouts (the young broccoli plant)
to the skin of hairless mice after they had been exposed to a dose of ultraviolet
light equivalent to what a person would get spending a day sunbathing on the
beach. After 20 weeks of "sunbathing" twice a week the mice had the
extract painted on their backs twice a day for 11 weeks. The incidence and size
of skin tumours in the treated mice was half of that in the untreated controls.
The extract did not act as a sunscreen but as a post-exposure treatment that
appeared to inhibit the carcinogenic effects of the ultraviolet light. Dr Dinkova-Kostova
said the findings suggested a "promising strategy" in adults who grew
up before sunscreens were widely available.
Researchers from Florida A&M University found using garlic to flavour meat
could help counter carcinogenic substances produced by cooking protein.
Ten superfoods to beat cancer
Member of the same family as sprouts, watercress and broccoli. Studies link
eating lots of brassica with lower rates of cancer of the digestive system.
Favoured by the former US president Bill Clinton, this is the archetypal cancer
preventive. It contains sulphoraphane, a phytochemical that helps destroy carcinogens
Containing the pungent phytochemicals called allylic sulphides, garlic has
long been used as a natural medicine. Allylic sulphides may help ward off cell
damage, thus preventing cancer.
RED AND ORANGE PEPPERS
An excellent source of vitamin C; half a red pepper provides all the vitamin
C an adult needs in one day, they also contain anti-oxidant flavenoids and beta-carotene.
Rich in selenium, a mineral, important to people in the UK who mostly have
low intakes. Some studies have suggested low levels increase the risk of cancer
and heart disease.
The anti-oxidant lycopene is what makes them red. Some research has linked
tomatoes - especially when cooked, canned or in pastes and sauces - with a lower
risk of prostate cancer.
Contain allium compounds and are rich in quercetin, a phytochemical. Both of
these are thought to reduce cancer as well as improving circulation and blood
One of the best sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which the body converts
to vitamin A. This is needed for healthy skin, a strong immune system and to
help see in the dark.
As well vitamin C and flavenoids, they contain a phytochemical called ellagic
acid, which some research has shown can help inhibit the growth of cancerous
Richest in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant vitamin. Mixed with pumpkin seeds
they provide a useful blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fats.