Study finds a new way to prevent lung cancer

Health benefits for smokers were found in fruits and vegetables.

Noah Johnson

It’s no secret that regular tobacco smokers put themselves at risk of developing lung cancer, but there is new evidence to suggest that this chance can be reduced by regularly consuming a mix of fruits and vegetables.
The American Association for Cancer Research  has published the results of a study investigating the health benefits of a variety of fruits and vegetables in its scientific journal.
The research showed that naturally occurring compounds found in fruits and vegetables are responsible for their ability to reduce the risk of cancer in smokers. These compounds exist within plants to defend them from disease. Similar compounds are found in meats and other foods, but not in such abundance and diversity, according to the study.
Ingesting produce with these compounds provides a similar defense for the human body, according to the study.
“This is interesting because tobacco smoke is very complex. It has multiple cancer-causing agents,” said professor Stephen Hecht  of the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center.  “Fortunately, the plant defense compounds are very complex, too.”
The study was conducted by a research team from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment  in the Netherlands. The researchers, led by Dr. Frederike
Büchner and Dr. H. BaBueno-de-Mesquita, studied the effects that regularly eating different types of produce had on more than 450,000 Europeans, including about 1,600 who have been diagnosed with lung cancer.
The study found that the greater variety of fruits and vegetables that smokers consume, the more they reduce their chance of lung cancer. For Hecht, an editorial board member for AACR’s journal, this is what makes the new findings interesting.
He said that most previous studies of this type focused their attention on the quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed rather than the diversity.
The researchers found that of the produce they studied, 14 fruits and 26 vegetables were shown to have a marked effect in preventing the
development of lung cancer — especially squamous cell carcinoma — in current smokers, AACR spokeswoman Tara Yates  said.
“As a smoker, knowing this makes me want to eat fruits and veggies even more than I do now,” said Peter Denardo, a University political science junior.
Despite being optimistic about the findings, Hecht made it a point to emphasize that the best way for smokers to significantly reduce their risk of contracting cancer is to give up tobacco completely.