Veggies preventing breast cancer?

Amy Thomas Health Guide
  • Vegetable nutrients are said to have a number of beneficial properties-antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic-but research backing the anti-carcinogenic properties of vegetables has been conflicting, particularly in the matter of breast cancer. Last week in the news, we heard the results of a new study suggesting that a diet rich in certain veggies can lower the risk of breast cancer. Should women flock to the produce department?


    It seems some women should. The study results were most striking in a group of women with genetic markers that may modify the risk of breast cancer. The genetic markers include three types of GSTP1 (glutathione S-transferase) enzymes which play a vital role in processing carcinogens (cancer causing agents).

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    The group of study participants who had GSTP 1 types called Ile/Ile, Ile/Val, and Val/Val benefited most from their vegetable- rich diets, with a surprising 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing breast cancer. These findings are published in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


    It's not just any vegetable that has this protective effect. Cruciferous vegetables are those linked to the reduction in breast cancer risk. These veggies belong to the family Cruciferae, also called Brassicaceae, the mustard family, or the cabbage family,. The crucifers include kale, collard greens, flowering cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip root, rutabaga, wasabi, mustard greens, arugula, bok choi, radish, garden cress, and watercress. While Americans eat more broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, the women studied reported consuming more Chinese cabbage, bok choi, and turnips.


    Cruciferous veggies are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber, and they also contain a number of nutrients with reported anti-cancer properties: isothiocyanates, sulforaphanes, selenium, glucosinolates, and indole-3-carbinol. In addition to their reported effect on breast cancer risk, cruciferous vegetables have been linked to a lower risk of prostate, lung, stomach, colorectal, ovarian, and bladder cancer.


    Bear in mind that evaluating the effects of dietary interventions on cancer risk is complex, and several issues are left to be addressed. These results will only be confirmed when other scientists report similar findings, and investigators will need to quantify the amount of cruciferous vegetable intake that confers protection. But vegetables have other key health benefits and they're a great way to meet your recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals.


    Broccoli is one of the most popular cruciferous vegetables, and it is an excellent source of nutrients with well-known health benefits, including vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and riboflavin. Light steaming is the best way to take advantage of broccoli's beneficial properties. Try it with lemon garlic sauce, cheese, or ginger and sesame. But what if you're like George senior you don't like it? You're missing out on a great way to get vitamins and fiber in a healthy, low-calorie treat.


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    *A family history of breast cancer is the best predictive risk factor for developing breast cancer. Alterations in the cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to increase the risk of breast cancer, and certain family history patterns suggest an inherited breast cancer risk due to abnormalities in these genes.


    Women are offered testing for the BRCA mutations and genetic counseling if they have the following in their family history: relative with breast cancer diagnosed under age 50, two first-degree relatives with breast cancer, a male relative with breast cancer, or ovarian cancer in relatives under age 50. A woman's lifetime chance of developing breast cancer is significantly increased if she inherits an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, but only 5% to10% of individuals who develop breast cancer are known to carry BRCA mutations.


    Beyond this group, genetic testing for breast cancer is not recommended for the general public, and other genetic mutations that may increase the risk of breast cancer are not included in routine testing.

Published On: April 04, 2008