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The Cancer Project: The News You Need

Vegetarian Diet Cuts Breast Cancer Risk

Vegetarians who moved to England from the Indian subcontinent or East Africa and kept their native diet of legumes and vegetables had a lower risk of breast cancer than their counterparts who adopted a Western-style diet, according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. As described in the International Journal of Cancer, women who consumed the most vegetables and fiber were the least likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer irrespective of their income, social situation, and use of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement.

Dos Santos Silva I, Mangtani P, McCormack V, Bhakta D, Sevak L, McMichael AJ. Life-long vegetarianism and risk of breast cancer: a population-based case-control study among South Asian migrant women living in England. Int J Cancer. 2002;99:238-244.

Vitamin D’s Role in Cancer Prevention Uncovered

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have discovered a potential mechanism for how vitamin D protects against colon cancer. As reported in Science, when people eat fatty foods, the liver empties bile acids into the intestine (making it possible for the body to absorb fatty substances) after which they are reabsorbed into the liver. However, vitamin D, along with special enzymes, breaks down one particularly toxic bile acid called lithocholic acid (LCA), preventing it from being recirculated and therefore reducing the risk of colon cancer. Researchers note that eating a high-fat diet keeps LCA levels elevated, which may overwhelm vitamin D’s protective effect.

Makishima M, Lu TT, Xie W, et al. Vitamin D receptor as an intestinal bile acid sensor. Science. 2002;296:1313-1316.

High Insulin Levels Hinder Cancer Recovery

Researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto studied 512 women with breast cancer. At the end of the four-year study, cancer had metastasized (spread to areas other than the breast) in 76 women, and 46 had died of the disease. The physicians found that the highest recurrence and death rates occurred in the most obese women and those with the highest insulin levels, even if they were slim. The finding deserves further research. For now, it is clear that overweight women who tend to have elevated insulin levels would benefit from shedding excess pounds in the interest of cancer prevention and survival.

Goodwin PJ, Ennis M, Pritchard KI, et al. Fasting insulin and outcome in early-stage breast cancer: results of a prospective cohort study. Clin Oncol. 2002;20:42-51.

Eat Ham, Get Polyps

A German study published in the European Journal of Nutrition examines the relationship among alcohol consumption, dietary risk factors, cigarette smoking, and colorectal adenomas or hyperplastic polyps (polyps believed to be precancerous). This study of 502 Caucasians concluded that smoking is a significant lifestyle risk factor for colorectal adenomas, and the consumption of just one-half of an ounce of ham or sausage daily significantly increases risk for hyperplastic polyps.

Ernhardt JG, Kreichgauer HP, Meisner C, Bode JC, Bode C. Alcohol, cigarette smoking, dietary factors and the risk of colorectal ademonas and hyperplastic polyps—a case control study. Eur J Nutr. 2002;41:35-43.

Fried Foods Figure in Cancer Development

Acrylamides, carcinogenic chemicals produced during frying or baking, have been found in especially high levels in potato chips and also in French fries and baked goods. First reported by the Swedish food agency and confirmed by British authorities, the discovery is inspiring the United States Food and Drug Administration to take a closer look.

To be published in American Chemical Society’s Journal for Agriculture and Food Chemistry.


Autumn 2002 (Volume XI, Number 3)
Autumn 2002
Volume XI
Number 3

Good Medicine

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