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Cancer Project: The News You Need

Veggies Cut Breast and Prostate Cancer Risk

Vegetables and fruits rich in beta-carotene can cut the risk of breast and prostate cancer. The findings were based on 83,234 participants in the Harvard Nurses' Health Study, and showed a particular benefit for younger women and those at risk due to a family history of cancer or regular alcohol use.

A study of 3,643 male physicians showed that men with the lowest levels of beta-carotene in their blood had 45 percent greater risk of developing prostate cancer, compared to men with the highest blood levels. Lycopene, a cousin of beta-carotene that gives the red color to tomatoes and watermelon, is also associated with reduced risk, and carotenoid-rich foods are associated with better cancer survival. Here are some healthy sources of beta-carotene (in milligrams):

Source Beta-Carotene
(in milligrams)
Broccoli (1 cup) 1.3
Brussels sprouts (1 cup) 0.7
Carrot (1) 12.0
Grapefruit (1) 0.4
Fresh spinach (1 cup) 2.3
Sweet potato (1) 15.0

Zhang S, Hunger DJ, Forman MR, et al. Dietary carotenoids and vitamins A, C, and E and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999;91:547-556.
Cook N, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, et al. Beta-carotene supplementation for patients with low baseline levels and decreased risks of total and prostate carcinoma. Cancer. 1999;86:1783-1792.

Women More Vulnerable to Cigarette Risks

Women may be more vulnerable than men to tobacco's cancer-causing effects. Dr. Natasha Buckshee of New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City used computerized tomography (CT) to scan 1,000 long-term smokers over age 60 for signs of lung cancer. Cancer turned up in 10 men and 19 women. After adjusting for other risk factors, women smokers were shown to have a 2.3-fold higher risk of developing lung cancer than men. The findings were presented at the American College of Chest Physicians meeting in November.

So what pushes some people to smoke while others do not? A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta shows that adults who had multiple stressful events in childhood—emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental separation or divorce, or growing up with a substance-abusing, mentally ill, or imprisoned household member—were 5.4 times more likely to start smoking by 14 years of age and twice as likely to continue smoking as adults, compared to those with less traumatic childhoods, suggesting that tobacco serves as a treatment for anxiety, depression, or anger.

Anda RF, Croft JB, Felitti VJ, et al. Adverse childhood experiences and smoking during adolescence and adulthood. JAMA. 1999;282:1652-1658.

Meat Raises Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Risk

Meat consumption appears to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of white blood cells. Data collected from 88,410 women in the Harvard Nurses' Health Study over a 14-year period showed that those eating beef, pork, or lamb daily were more than twice as likely to develop NHL, compared to those who consumed these products less often or not at all. Meats contain carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form from creatine, amino acids, and sugars found in animal muscle tissues. Trans fats, commonly found in baked goods and snack foods, also increased risk.

The take-home message is to avoid meats and to look on package labels for "partially hydrogenated oils," which indicates the presence of trans fats.

Zhang S, Hunter DJ, Rosner BA, et al. Dietary fat and protein in relation to risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999;91:1751-1758.



 

Winter 2000 (Volume IX, Number 1)

Winter 2000
Volume IX
Number 1

Good Medicine
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