Washington. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of some kinds of lung cancer for smokers, according to a study released on Monday.
“Although quitting smoking is the most important preventive action in reducing lung cancer risk, consuming a mix of different types of fruit and vegetables may also reduce risk, independent of the amount, especially among smokers,” said H Bas Bueno de Mesquita, from the Netherlands-based National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, was based on research involving more than 450,000 people in Europe, including 1,600 who were diagnosed with lung cancer.
The researchers said the variety of fruits and vegetables eaten appeared to be more important than the quantity. They studied 14 commonly eaten fruits and 26 vegetables including fresh, canned and dried products.
“Fruits and vegetables contain many different bioactive compounds, and it makes sense to assume that it is important that you not only eat the recommended amounts, but also consume a rich mix of these bioactive compounds by consuming a large variety,” Bueno de Mesquita said.
The risk of squamous cell carcinoma decreased substantially when a variety of fruits and vegetables were eaten, the study concluded.
Stephen Hecht, an editorial board member at Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, said this was the first study to evaluate diversity of fruit and vegetable consumption, rather than quantity.
“The results are very interesting and demonstrate a protective effect in smokers,” he said. “There are still over a billion smokers in the world, and many are addicted to nicotine and cannot stop in spite of their best efforts.”
Hecht said that tobacco smoke contained a complex mixture of cancer-causing agents and that a mixture of protective agents was needed to have any beneficial effect in reducing the risk of lung cancer.
“Nevertheless, the public should be made aware and be reminded that the only proven way to reduce your risk for lung cancer is to avoid tobacco in all its forms,” he said.