Got breast cancer? Get to your greengrocers!

Fruit & VegFresh fruit and vegetables can inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors and reduce the risk of death in women who already have breast cancer, say two new studies.

The first study is one of several on the effects of fresh apple extracts in rats.  Whole apple extracts have strong antiproliferative and antioxidant activities, thought to be a result of the combination of phytochemicals in the fruit.

This study found that giving rats with mammary tumors a dosage of apple extracts equivalent to one apple a day in humans seriously curtailed the likelihood of tumor growth.  In total, only 57% of rats fed low doses of apple extracts experienced rapid tumor growth over the 24-week study compared with 81% of control animals, who received no apple extracts whatsoever.

Strikingly, only 23% of the rats fed high doses of apple extracts showed signs of tumor proliferation. Scaled up, a human would need to consume six apples a day to benefit from this protective effect.

Rui Hai Liu, Cornell associate professor of food science and one of the study’s authors, said, “We not only observed that the treated animals had fewer tumors, but the tumors were smaller, less malignant and grew more slowly compared with the tumors in the untreated rats.”

A second study of 1,901 women with early-stage breast cancer found that a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and poultry reduced the risk of death from any cause.

The risk of death in women who stuck rigidly to a ‘prudent’ diet was almost 50% lower than that in women who paid less attention to what they ate.  On the other hand, the risk of death in women who ate a Western diet comprising a high intake of red and processed meats and refined grains was much higher than in less unhealthy women.  These observations were generally not modified by physical activity, being overweight, or smoking.

Interestingly, neither dietary pattern was associated with risk of breast cancer recurrence or death from breast cancer.

The authors conclude that “women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer might improve overall prognosis and survival by adopting more healthful dietary patterns.”

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