Nutritional approaches may help combat cancer

Phytosterols reduce chances of several cancers, lycopene may reduce colorectal cancer risk, and women with cancer who took cod liver oil or multi-vitamin-minerals lived longer, in three new studies.

In a review of cancer studies that analyzed diet, researchers found that phytosterols—plant compounds found in grains, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts—may inhibit lung, stomach, ovarian and breast cancers. Doctors believe phytosterols keep the body from absorbing cholesterol, lowering the chances of cardiovascular disease. Phytosterols also activate enzymes that keep cancer cells from growing and speed their death, doctors said.

In a cancer risk study, doctors thought that lycopene—the red pigment antioxidant in tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables—could lower chances of the disease. About 70 men and women with benign colorectal tumors or a family history of colorectal cancer took 30 mg of lycopene per day or a placebo. After eight weeks, researchers found that the lycopene group had much higher blood levels of a protein that helps control a cancer-stimulating compound, and concluded that lycopene may reduce chances of colorectal and other major cancers such as prostate and pre-menopausal breast cancers.

Doctors in a Norwegian cancer study measured the diets of nearly 70,000 women with cancer and found that those with a solid tumor who took cod liver oil daily—the most common supplement in Norway—for a year before diagnosis were 23 percent less likely to die and women with lung cancer were 44 percent less likely to die compared to women who did not take cod liver oil. Women with solid tumors who took other dietary supplements daily—including multi-vitamin-minerals—were 30 percent less likely to die and women with lung cancer who took other supplements occasionally were 45 percent less likely compared to women who did not take other supplements.

International Journal of Cancer; 2009, Vol. 125, No. 5, 1155-60.

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