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Foods That Fight Cancer

No single food or food component can protect you against cancer by itself.

Source: American Institute for Cancer Research
But strong evidence does show that a diet filled with a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers… …In laboratory studies, many individual minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals demonstrate anti-cancer effects. Yet evidence suggests it is the synergy of compounds working together in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection.

Percentage of Cancers That Could Be Prevented via Healthy Diet, Regular Physical Activity and Healthy Weight:

Endometrium (lining of the uterus) 70
Esophagus 69
Mouth, pharynx and larynx 63
Stomach 47
Colorectum 50
Pancreas 19
Breast, female 38
Lung 36
Kidney 24
Gallbladder 21
Liver 19

Super Foods

Source: Office of Research Services

Whole Grains
Herbs and Spices
Stone Fruits
Dark Chocolate
Leafy Greens

Why Choose Whole Grains?
Studies show a connection between whole grains and good health. Eating whole grains lowers total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels each of which reduces the risk for heart disease. Eating two servings of whole grains a day decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%. The data on cancer are mixed but intriguingly, whole grains reduce deaths from non-cardiac, non-cancer causes and the fiber in whole grains help prevent constipation and diverticular disease.

The current US Dietary Guidelines recommend that all Americans make half or more of their grains whole grains. For everyone ages 9 and up, this means eating 3 servings or more of whole grains every day.

Examples of Whole Grains
Who Rye

Hulled Barley
Rolled Oats

Oat Groats
Wild Rice
Whole Cornmeal
Steel-cut Oats

Brown Rice

According to the USDA, the average American consumes around 18 pounds of fresh tomatoes and 69 pounds of processed tomato products annually! Because of their frequent consumption, tomatoes provide a convenient way to supply nutrients – they are an excellent source of potassium, folate, and vitamins A, C, and E.

Tomatoes are also a great source of fiber– tomato paste having the most fiber at 11.8 g per cup. Naturally low in sodium, tomatoes are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.Tomatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients including carotenoids and polyphenols. In tomatoes and tomato products, lycopene is the carotenoid with the highest concentration. Chopping and cooking (especially in oil) increase the bioavailability of lycopene.

Tomatoes are a concentrated source of flavonols, which are mostly contained in the skin. Many of these nutrients and phytochemicals have antioxidant properties and, in combination with lycopene, may contribute to the numerous health benefits of tomatoes. There is a high degree of scientific consensus about the consumption of a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables particularly those which contain dietary fiber and vitamins A and C, like tomatoes. Mounting evidence supports that these foods, as part of an overall healthful diet, have the potential to delay the onset of many age-related diseases.

The FDA and the National Cancer Institute have released a dietary message for consumers stating, “Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancers and other chronic diseases”. Still true today, over 2,000 years ago Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’.

Color-rich berries contain many essential nutrients. 8 medium-sized strawberries – 1 serving – have only 30 calories and contain folate, vitamin C, fiber and potassium all without any saturated fat, cholesterol, or sodium. And there is accumulating evidence that much of the health-promoting potential of berries may come from phytochemicals, the bioactive compounds not designated as traditional nutrients.

Anthocyanins are a large class of antioxidants that make up the bright blue, violet, red, and purple colors of berries. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and currants contain dozens of different anthocyanins per fruit, which are continuing to support broad health benefits. Laboratory evidence suggests that eating berries may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, insulin resistance and infections.

A colorful diet of plant foods offers a simple guide to healthful foods and meal preparation. While there is no way of knowing the phytonutrient content of a given piece of produce, choosing items like berries that have the deepest color and are both ripe and fresh helps to assure your pigment intake. Eat as many different colored foods as possible and try to get the recommended 5-9 servings of colorful produce every day. Studies have consistently noted an association between the consumption of diets rich in fruits and vegetables and a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Increasing berry consumption is a logical and delicious place to start!

It’s a fruit! The avocado is actually a fruit not a vegetable – botanically a single-seeded berry. There are more than 80 varieties of avocados with the “Hass” variety dominating the crop share. A single mature tree can produce up to 120 pieces of fruit in a year!

Nutrient dense!
Ounce for ounce, avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense commonly eaten fruits and are a source of fiber, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, potassium (avocados contain 60% more potassium than bananas), zinc, iron, magnesium, and folate. They are also cholesterol and sodium free. 1/5 of a medium avocado (30g or 1 oz) has 50 calories and 4.5 g fat, most of which is heart-healthy monounsaturated. Additionally, avocados contain lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect the eyes from macular degeneration as well as beta-sitosterol, a natural plant sterol which helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Nutrient booster!
Carotenoids, a fat-loving class of compounds thought to be heart-healthy and cancer-fighting, are commonly found in fruits and vegetables that have naturally low levels of fat. The fat found naturally in the avocado has been shown to significantly increase the absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. So be sure to add some avocado to your vegetable salad. Avocados are an example of a high fat food that is also healthy for you!

Herbs and Spices
Herb vs Spice. The leaf of a plant used in cooking is generally referred to as a culinary herb. Any other part of the plant, such as the buds, bark, roots, berries, seeds, and the stigma of a flower is called a spice. Herbs and spices have a long history and new research is exploring the possible therapeutic uses for herbs and spices used in cooking – primarily for their antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties.

7 Spices for Health

Curcumin, found in turmeric and curry powder, contains curcuminoids that appear to have antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties with potential activity against cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzeimer’s and other chronic diseases.

Cinnamon’s active ingredients are polyphenols which scientists think may act like insulin – however recent studies show it has only a possible modest effect.

Cayenne pepper (ground red pepper) is a concentrated source of capsaicin, a phytochemical that may target pathways involved in cancer development and inflammation.

Oregano has antioxidants, phytochemicals and antimicrobial activity.

Rosemary, like other green herbs, has antioxidants and antimicrobial properties linked to its polyphenol composition. Ginger is a mixture of several hundred chemicals including gingerols, salicylate, and curmucin which may play a role preventing chronic disease. Thyme, nutmeg, garlic, mint and basil are also being studied. However, scientists point out that more research is needed before intake amount or supplement recommendations are made.

Mix it up
In the meantime, there are many dietary implications for increasing your intake of herbs and spices. They help lower salt, fat and sugar intake as well as support an increase in the variety of food intake and thus, nutrient diversity. For example, they are an alternative to salt as a seasoning, they support an increased intake of fruits and vegetables by adding flavor and interest, and they improve low fat cooking methods for foods such as soups, salad dressings, and marinades.

Herbs are clustered into families so traditional combinations may be exchanged with others from the same family. For example, the mint family contains not only mint but basil, marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary. The parsley family includes parsley, dill and coriander (cilantro). Conduct your own experiments and enjoy the flavor of herbs and spices!

Throughout history, cranberry fruits and leaves have been used for a variety of health problems such as wounds, urinary disorders, diarrhea, diabetes, stomach problems and liver disease. Recent research has shown that each tiny cranberry contains phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, many of which are classified as flavonoids. Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants help maintain cell structure and good health by combining with and neutralizing “free radicals”, highly reactive chemicals that damage cell walls. In fact, cranberries have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants, when compared to other fruits.

Cancer and Heart Disease
Early research also suggests that the antioxidant properties of flavonoids in cranberries may play a role in preventing both heart disease and certain cancers. More study in humans is needed to establish the relationship but laboratory studies are promising. There are many health-related reasons to include cranberries in your diet, but one of the most important reasons is that they add color and zest to dishes and taste great too!

The term legume (lehg-YOOM) refers to any of thousands of plant species that have seed pods that split along both sides when ripe. The most common legumes are beans, lentils, peanuts, peas, and soybeans. When the seeds of a legume are dried, they are referred to as pulses.

Legumes play an important role in the traditional diets in many regions of the world and are among the best nutrition bargains in the market and are an excellent source of fiber, protein, folate, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc. They are also naturally low in sodium and saturated fat. One serving of beans (1/2 cup cooked) provides 2-6 grams of a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber and nearly 90% of the recommended daily intake of folate.

Canned beans are a convenient way to get the benefits of legumes as most nutrients remain intact during the canning process. Canned beans are higher in sodium than fresh but draining and rinsing with water eliminates about ½ the salt. Rinsing also helps remove the oligosaccharides, which are the offending gas-producer in beans.

Legumes also contain phytonutrients such as flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins and saponins. Even though phytonutrients are not considered essential nutrients, research over the past 15 years has demonstrated that some phytonutrients in legumes do provide health benefits.

Legumes are an integral part of a Mediterranean diet pattern which also includes a rich intake of vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish, and moderate intake of red wine with meals. A recent examination of 12 studies with over 1 ½ million subjects over a period ranging from 3-18 years found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet was associated with reductions in cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality as well as reductions in incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world, second only to water. There are 3 main types of tea – black (78% of the tea produced and consumed in the world), green (20%) and oolong (<2%) and they are all derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Although tea has been consumed for centuries, it has only recently been studied as a health-promoting beverage that may prevent a number of chronic diseases and cancers.

The composition of tea leaves depends on a variety of factors, including climate, season, horticultural practices, and the age of the plant. Teas are a source of caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes smooth muscle in the airways to the lungs, stimulates the heart, and acts on the kidneys as a diuretic (increases urine). One cup of tea (8 fluid ounces) contains about 50mg of caffeine, depending on the strength, compared to 65-175mg of caffeine in a cup of coffee.

Teas also contain tannin, trace vitamins & minerals, and polyphenols. It is commonly believed that it is the polyphenols found in tea that have a variety of health benefits. Most of the polyphenols in green tea are flavanols, commonly known as catechins. In black teas, the major polyphenols are theaflavin and thearubigin. Polyphenols have been studiedextensively in the laboratory and have shown promise in the prevention of cancer but the relevance to humans has yet to be well established. There is also conflicting evidence from studies examining tea and heart disease. Further studies are required before a recommendation can be made.

Processing reduces polyphenols so it is best to enjoy freshly brewed tea; decaffeinated teas may contain lower levels of beneficial flavanols. Be careful how much bottled tea you drink as it is often loaded with sugar or other sweeteners and calories. Tea also contains theanine, which affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain to produce a calm state of mind. So sit back, relax and enjoy a cup of soothing brewed tea!

Did you know? There are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States. Though Red Delicious is the most widely grown apple followed by Golden Delicious, there are literally thousands of others with names like Wolf River, Summer Rose, Duchess of Oldenberg, and Idared. Since apples are grown in all 50 states and grown commercially in 36 states, eating locally grown apples is a great way to experience less common varieties, stay in touch with seasonality, and enjoy superior taste.

Fabulous Flavonoids and Phenols!
Apples are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium and are a good source of fiber – there are 5 grams of fiber in 1 apple. Apples also contain phytochemicals, the non-nutritive plant compounds that are attributed with much of the protective effect of fruits and vegetables.

Apples are one of the main sources of flavonoids in the Western diet, supplying 22% of the total phenols consumed per capita in the United States. An increased intake of apples has been linked with a decreased risk of some cancers, heart disease, asthma, Type 2 diabetes and stroke. However, the mechanisms by which flavonoids may lower risk for chronic disease remain to be fully understood.

Does Washing Help?
According to the Environmental Working Group, apples are one of the “Dirty Dozen”, the produce most frequently found to contain pesticide residues. Rinsing reduces but does not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps but valuble nutrients are lost, especially the antioxidants and fiber found in the peel of apples. Individuals wishing to avoid pesticide-associated health risks might consider purchasing organically grown apples. So choose an apple – red, green, or yellow – and crunch your way to health.

Wheat grass – Barley grass

Source: Curezone

Barley and Wheat Grass Juice
These two “super foods” are produced from young cereal plants that are carefully grown until they reach 4 to 10″ in height. Then they are cut, washed, dried, and ground to a pulp from which the green juice is extracted and, finally, dried into a green powder. Both are high in chlorophyll, potassium, calcium and incredibly rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, enzymes and beta carotene.

Wheatgrass juice contains 70% “crude” chlorophyll. Chlorophyll by definition being the green pigment in plants. It is considered the “blood” of plants, due to the similarity to our blood in molecular structure. Additionally, wheat grass helps neutralize and remove toxins. Barley Juice Powder is also rich in magnesium, potassium and bioflavonoids.

“Gary’s platelet count rose every day for 7 days from 61,000 to 141,000 and the only thing we did differently was administer wheatgrass. That’s absolutely phenomenal and it’s fully documented on the hospital record.” — Dr. Leonard Smith, MD, Cancer Surgeon

“Barley grass leaf extract dramatically inhibits the growth of human prostatic cancer cells grown in tissue culture. …It may provide a new nutritional approach to the treatment of prostate cancer. ” —Dr. Allan L. Goldstein, MD, George Washington Univ. Medical Center.

Primary Component of Turmeric Kicks Off Cancer-Killing Mechanisms in Human Saliva
Source: Jonsson Cancer Center Faculty: Eri Srivatsan, Ph.D., Marilene B. Wang, M.D.

Posted Date: 9/13/2011 11:00 AM

the main component in the spice turmeric, suppresses a cell signaling pathway that drives the growth of head and neck cancer, according to a pilot study using human saliva by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The inhibition of the cell signaling pathway also correlated with reduced expression of a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or signaling molecules, in the saliva that promote cancer growth, said Dr. Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, Jonsson Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study. “This study shows that curcumin can work in the mouths of patients with head and neck malignancies and reduce activities that promote cancer growth,” Wang said. “And it not only affected the cancer by inhibiting a critical cell signaling pathway, it also affected the saliva itself by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines within the saliva.”

The study appears Sept. 15 in Clinical Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. Turmeric is a naturally occurring spice widely used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and has long been known to have medicinal properties, attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects. Previous studies have shown it can suppress the growth of certain cancers…

In a 2010 study, also done in cells and in mouse models, the research team found that the curcumin suppressed head and neck cancer growth by regulating cell cycling, said scientist Eri Srivatsan, an adjunct professor of surgery, article author and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher who, along with Wang, has been studying curcumin and its anti-cancer properties for seven years. In July 2011, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 11 of the last 12 years.


Source: CANCERactive.com
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the bright yellow of the spice rainbow, is an herb native to Southeast Asia that is a true superfood shown to have remarkable healing properties. It has been found to be effective when used for peptic, gastric and duodenal ulcers as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has several cancer-fighting properties. It has been found to be helpful in the treatment of several different forms of cancer, including colon cancer, duodenal cancer, leukemia, mouth cancer, stomach cancer, and even pancreatic cancer.

That’s right! A Phase II clinical trial conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center found that turmeric was equal to or better than all currently available FDA approved drugs for pancreatic cancer, except that it does not cause the same negative side effects. When combined with other powerful nutrients like fish oil, olive oil, and/or black pepper, turmeric’s anti-cancer effects are even further amplified, as the spice is not very well absorbed by the body on its own.

Turmeric can also protect cells against xenoestrogens (“fake” estrogens) because it can fit to the same receptor as estrogen or estrogen-mimicking chemicals. In a study on human breast cancer cells, turmeric reversed growth caused by a certain form of estrogen by 98% and growth caused by DDT by 75%. According to University of Chicago scientists, curcumin inhibits a cancer-provoking bacteria associated with gastric and colon cancer.

Yet another anti-cancer property of curcumin is that it is a powerful antioxidant. It can therefore protect our bodies from free radicals that damage DNA. This is also why turmeric (which contains curcumin) can be used for preserving foods.

Tests in Germany, reported in the Journal of Pharmacy & Pharmacology in July 2003, found that “all fractions of the turmeric extract preparation exhibited pronounced antioxidant activity.” Turmeric extract tested more potent than garlic, devil’s claw, and salmon oil.

In the June 1998 issue of Molecular Medicine, researchers at Harvard Medical School published their findings that curcumin inhibits angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) which tumors use to nourish themselves as they spread. If you combine curcumin with black pepper, it multiplies the effectiveness of curcumin by 1,000 times. It makes it the most powerful “natural chemotherapy” you can ever experience.

Green Tea

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)

Tea has long been regarded as an aid to good health, and many believe it can help reduce the risk of cancer. Most studies of tea and cancer prevention have focused on green tea. Although tea and/or tea polyphenols have been found in animal studies to inhibit tumorigenesis at different organ sites, including the skin, lung, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, pancreas, and mammary gland, the results of human studies—both epidemiologic and clinical studies—have been inconclusive.

How effective is it?

Source: Medline Plus
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale:

Likely Effective,
Possibly Effective,
Possibly Ineffective,
Likely Ineffective,

The effectiveness ratings for GREEN TEA are as follows: Possibly effective for…

In one study, women who drank 2 or more cups of green tea each day had a 46% lower risk of getting ovarian cancer than women who didn’t drink green tea.

Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
June 7, 2012
Key Points

What are cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassica genus of plants. They include the following vegetables, among others:

Bok Choy
Brussels Sprouts
Collared Greens

Why are cancer researchers studying cruciferous vegetables?
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in nutrients, including several carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin); vitamins C, E, and K; folate; and minerals. They also are a good fiber source. In addition, cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of cruciferous vegetables.

During food preparation, chewing, and digestion, the glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables are broken down to form biologically active compounds such as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates (1). Indole-3-carbinol (an indole) and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate) have been most frequently examined for their anticancer effects.

Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach (2, 3). Studies in animals and experiments with cells grown in the laboratory have identified several potential ways in which these compounds may help prevent cancer:

Studies in humans, however, have shown mixed results, as described in Question 3.

Is there evidence that cruciferous vegetables can help reduce cancer risk in people?
Researchers have investigated possible associations between intake of cruciferous vegetables and the risk of cancer. The evidence has been reviewed by various experts. Key studies regarding four common forms of cancer are described briefly below.

A few studies have shown that the bioactive components of cruciferous vegetables can have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cancer-related processes in people. For example, one study found that indole-3-carbinol was more effective than placebo in reducing the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix (20). In addition, several case-control studies have shown that specific forms of the gene that encodes glutathione S-transferase, which is the enzyme that metabolizes and helps eliminate isothiocyanates from the body, may influence the association between cruciferous vegetable intake and human lung and colorectal cancer risk (21-23).

Are cruciferous vegetables part of a healthy diet?
The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend consuming a variety of vegetables each day. Different vegetables are rich in different nutrients. Vegetables are categorized into five subgroups: dark-green, red and orange, beans and peas (legumes), starchy, and other vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables fall into the “dark-green vegetables” category and the “other vegetables” category. More information about vegetables and diet, including how much of these foods should be eaten daily or weekly, is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture website Choose My Plate.

Higher consumption of vegetables in general may protect against some diseases, including some types of cancer. However, when researchers try to distinguish cruciferous vegetables from other foods in the diet, it can be challenging to get clear results because study participants may have trouble remembering precisely what they ate.

Also, people who eat cruciferous vegetables may be more likely than people who don’t to have other healthy behaviors that reduce disease risk. It is also possible that some people, because of their genetic background, metabolize dietary isothiocyanates differently. However, research has not yet revealed a specific group of people who, because of their genetics, benefit more than other people from eating cruciferous vegetables.

Selected References Hayes JD, Kelleher MO, Eggleston IM. The cancer chemopreventive actions of phytochemicals derived from glucosinolates. European Journal of Nutrition 2008;47 Suppl 2:73-88.[PubMed Abstract]

Hecht SS. Inhibition of carcinogenesis by isothiocyanates. Drug Metabolism Reviews 2000;32(3-4):395-411. [PubMed Abstract] Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutrition and Cancer 2001;41(1-2):17-28. [PubMed Abstract]

Schuurman AG, Goldbohm RA, Dorant E, van den Brandt PA. Vegetable and fruit consumption and prostate cancer risk: a cohort study in The Netherlands. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 1998;7(8):673-680. [PubMed Abstract]

Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of cruciferous vegetables and prostate cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2003;12(12):1403-1409. [PubMed Abstract]

Key TJ, Allen N, Appleby P, et al. Fruits and vegetables and prostate cancer: no association among 1104 cases in a prospective study of 130544 men in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). International Journal of Cancer 2004;109(1):119-124.[PubMed Abstract]

Kolonel LN, Hankin JH, Whittemore AS, et al. Vegetables, fruits, legumes and prostate cancer: a multiethnic case-control study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2000;9(8):795-804.[PubMed Abstract]

Jain MG, Hislop GT, Howe GR, Ghadirian P. Plant foods, antioxidants, and prostate cancer risk: findings from case-control studies in Canada. Nutrition and Cancer 1999;34(2):173-184.[PubMed Abstract]

McCullough ML, Robertson AS, Chao A, et al. A prospective study of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and colon cancer risk. Cancer Causes & Control 2003;14(10):959-970.[PubMed Abstract]

Flood A, Velie EM, Chaterjee N, et al. Fruit and vegetable intakes and the risk of colorectal cancer in the Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project follow-up cohort. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;75(5):936-943.[PubMed Abstract]

Michels KB, Edward Giovannucci, Joshipura KJ, et al. Prospective study of fruit and vegetable consumption and incidence of colon and rectal cancers. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000;92(21):1740-1752.[PubMed Abstract]

Voorrips LE, Goldbohm RA, van Poppel G, et al. Vegetable and fruit consumption and risks of colon and rectal cancer in a prospective cohort study: The Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology 2000;152(11):1081-1092.[PubMed Abstract]

Neuhouser ML, Patterson RE, Thornquist MD, et al. Fruits and vegetables are associated with lower lung cancer risk only in the placebo arm of the beta-carotene and retinol efficacy trial (CARET). Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2003;12(4):350-358.[PubMed Abstract]

Voorrips LE, Goldbohm RA, Verhoeven DT, et al. Vegetable and fruit consumption and lung cancer risk in the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer. Cancer Causes and Control 2000;11(2):101-115.[PubMed Abstract]

Chow WH, Schuman LM, McLaughlin JK, et al. A cohort study of tobacco use, diet, occupation, and lung cancer mortality. Cancer Causes and Control 1992;3(3):247-254.[PubMed Abstract]

Feskanich D, Ziegler RG, Michaud DS, et al. Prospective study of fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of lung cancer among men and women. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2000;92(22):1812-1823.[PubMed Abstract]

Terry P, Wolk A, Persson I, Magnusson C. Brassica vegetables and breast cancer risk. JAMA 2001;285(23):2975-2977.[PubMed Abstract]

Smith-Warner SA, Spiegelman D, Yaun SS, et al. Intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. JAMA 2001;285(6):769-776.[PubMed Abstract]

Zhang S, Hunter DJ, Forman MR, et al. Dietary carotenoids and vitamins A, C, and E and risk of breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 1999;91(6):547-556.[PubMed Abstract]

Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, Bradlow HL, et al. Placebo-controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of CIN. Gynecologic Oncology 2000;78(2):123-129.[PubMed Abstract]

Epplein M, Wilkens LR, Tiirikainen M, et al. Urinary isothiocyanates; glutathione S-transferase M1, T1, and P1 polymorphisms; and risk of colorectal cancer: the Multiethnic Cohort Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2009;18(1):314-320.[PubMed Abstract]

London SJ, Yuan JM, Chung FL, et al. Isothiocyanates, glutathione S-transferase M1 and T1 polymorphisms, and lung-cancer risk: a prospective study of men in Shanghai, China. Lancet 2000;356(9231):724-729.[PubMed Abstract]

Yang G, Gao YT, Shu XO, et al. Isothiocyanate exposure, glutathione S-transferase polymorphisms, and colorectal cancer risk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010;91(3):704-711.[PubMed Abstract]

Red Wine and Cancer Prevention

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
Key Points

Red wine is a rich source of biologically active phytochemicals, chemicals found in plants. Particular compounds called polyphenols found in red wine—such as catechins and resveratrol—are thought to have antioxidant or anticancer properties.

1. What are polyphenols and how do they prevent cancer?

Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds found in the skin and seeds of grapes. When wine is made from these grapes, the alcohol produced by the fermentation process dissolves the polyphenols contained in the skin and seeds. Red wine contains more polyphenols than white wine because the making of white wine requires the removal of the skins after the grapes are crushed. The phenols in red wine include catechin, gallic acid, and epicatechin.

Polyphenols have been found to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from oxidative damage caused by molecules called free radicals. These chemicals can damage important parts of cells, including proteins, membranes, and DNA. Cellular damage caused by free radicals has been implicated in the development of cancer. Research on the antioxidants found in red wine has shown that they may help inhibit the development of certain cancers.

2. What is resveratrol and how does it prevent cancer?

Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol called a phytoalexin, a class of compounds produced as part of a plant’s defense system against disease. It is produced in the plant in response to an invading fungus, stress, injury, infection, or ultraviolet irradiation. Red wine contains high levels of resveratrol, as do grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.

Resveratrol has been shown to reduce tumor incidence in animals by affecting one or more stages of cancer development. It has been shown to inhibit growth of many types of cancer cells in culture. Evidence also exists that it can reduce inflammation. It also reduces activation of NF kappa B, a protein produced by the body’s immune system when it is under attack. This protein affects cancer cell growth and metastasis. Resveratrol is also an antioxidant.

3. What have red wine studies found?

The cell and animal studies of red wine have examined effects in several cancers, including leukemia, skin, breast, and prostate cancers. Scientists are studying resveratrol to learn more about its cancer preventive activities. Recent evidence from animal studies suggests this anti-inflammatory compound may be an effective chemopreventive agent in three stages of the cancer process: Initiation, promotion, and progression.

Research studies published in the International Journal of Cancer show that drinking a glass of red wine a day may cut a man’s risk of prostate cancer in half and that the protective effect appears to be strongest against the most aggressive forms of the disease. It was also seen that men who consumed four or more 4-ounce glasses of red wine per week have a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer.

However, studies of the association between red wine consumption and cancer in humans are in their initial stages. Although consumption of large amounts of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of some cancers, there is growing evidence that the health benefits of red wine are related to its nonalcoholic components.

Here’s an abstract from a scientific paper:

Fighting cancer with red wine? Molecular mechanisms of resveratrol.

Kraft TE, Parisotto D, Schempp C, Efferth T. Author information
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 Oct;49(9):782-99. doi: 10.1080/10408390802248627.
Source: PubMed


Resveratrol, a red wine constituent, has been known for its cardioprotective effects. Recent data give ample evidence that resveratrol can act as a chemopreventive agent as well. Tumor initation, promotion, and progression are affected by resveratrol via multiple pathways, which are discussed in this review.

Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects by counteracting NF-kappa B and AP-1 transcription and can prevent bioactivation of procarcinogens by interacting with drug metabolizing enzymes. Furthermore, resveratrol exerts antioxidant activities, hence contributing to the prevention of tumor initiation.

Growing or metastasizing carcinomas are inhibited by resveratrol through prevention of angiogenesis by inhibiting VEGF and matrix metalloproteases. Induction of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest, important mechanisms for cancer therapy, are stimulated by resveratrol through different mechanisms, e.g., activation of p53 and modulation of cell cycle proteins.

Although there has been remarkable evidence for resveratrol as a potent chemopreventive agent in vitro, it seems that the low bioavailability of resveratrol in humans could interfere with a successful in vivo treatment. Nevertheless, resveratrol offers two major advantages over conventional chemotherapy.

The cytotoxic effects of resveratrol on healthy cells can be neglected, and, as several pathways leading to chemotherapeutic effects are activated by resveratrol, chemoresistance-inducing mutations in cancer cells can be overcome.

PMID: 20443159  
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Cancer Treatment Options

Updated 2024

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