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Avocados offer fresh hopes of preventing mouth cancer

From The Times, September 6, 2007
Avocados may prevent mouth cancer and even reduce the rate of cancer growth, research suggests.

Hass avocados, which are readily available in British supermarkets, have been shown to inhibit the growth of mouth cancer cells in the laboratory, and even cause the death of precancerous cells and cancer cell lines, leaving normal cells untouched.

The researchers ascribe the healing effects of avocados to their high levels of phytochemicals, chemical compounds from plants that are often found in dark-coloured fruits and vegetables. There is plenty of evidence that phytochemicals boost the cancer-fighting properties of many fruits and vegetables, but this is the first study relating phytochemicals in avocados to mouth cancer.

Dr Steven D’Ambrosio, of Ohio State University, who led the study,said: “We think these phytochemicals either stop the growth of pre-cancerous cells in the body or they kill the precancerous cells without affecting normal cells.” Phytochemicals from avocado act in the cells’ signalling pathways, taking control of the growth and death mechanisms in the cells and keeping the cancer in check.

The study, which will be published this year in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology, was carried out using mouth cells cultured on Petri dishes. The team added different extracts from avocados to see if they controlled the cancer. “It’s very promising. I think it reinforces the healthy diet concept of increasing fruit and vegetables, and it is an additional fruit that can prevent cancer,” Dr D’Ambrosio said. Avocados also contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, fibre and unsaturated fats that can help to slow the onset of cancer.

Worth a try? Thinking
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from the MD Anderson Integrative Medicine Center's monthly newsletter - April 2011

Federal Government Embraces an Anti-Cancer Diet
New dietary guidelines from the federal government have taken the advice of cancer experts into account. A healthy diet, combined with increased physical activity and lower body weight, may help prevent up to a third of cancers.

Download current issue (pdf) for the above story and the latest news on complementary and integrative therapies, and a monthly calendar of events at MD Anderson
Strawberries May Help Prevent Esophageal Cancer
April 6, 2011 -- Eating freeze-dried strawberries may help prevent esophageal cancer, according to new but preliminary research.

''Eating strawberries may be a way for people at high risk for esophageal cancer to protect themselves from the disease," says researcher Tong Chen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus.

She presented the results of her small study at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Orlando, Fla. The study was funded by the California Strawberry Commission.

After an animal study showed strawberries might have some cancer-fighting benefits for esophageal cancer, Chen decided to study their effect in people.

She evaluated the use of freeze-dried strawberries in 36 men and women who had precancerous lesions of the esophagus.

Their average age was about 54. All were at high risk for cancer of the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It allows food to enter the stomach for digestion.

In 2010, 16,640 new cases of esophageal cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. and 14,500 people died of it, according to the American Cancer Society. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include tobacco use and the combination of smoking and drinking alcohol heavily. A diet low in fruits and vegetables may also increase risk.

Slowing Down Precancerous Lesions

Chen instructed the men and women in the study to eat about 2 ounces of freeze-dried strawberries a day. The freeze-dried form was used to boost the potential cancer-fighting ingredients, she says.

"By removing the water from the strawberries we concentrated the components by tenfold," Chen says.

Participants kept records daily of their strawberry intake. They were not instructed to change anything else in their diet or lifestyle. Most participants smoked, Chen says.

All had a biopsy of the esophagus before and after the study. At the study start, 31 had the precancerous condition known as mild dysplasia and five had moderate dysplasia.

Doctors can predict the chances that precancerous lesions will develop into cancer, Chen says. "If they have mild dysplasia, about 25% will develop cancer in about 15 to 20 years. If they have moderate, 50% will develop cancer over the next 15 or 20 years."

The strawberries appeared to slow progression of the lesions in most. "Twenty nine of the 36 experienced a decreased level of precancerous lesions," Chen tells WebMD.

Overall, six had no change and one had an increase in lesion development.

A cancer-causing agent known as N-NMBA (nitrosomethylbenzylamine) is linked with esophageal cancer, Chen says.

It's found in some pickled vegetables, fried bacon, and other foods, she says. Tobacco smoke also contains nitrosamine cancer-causing agents.

''We think the strawberries can inhibit the activation of the NMBA," she says.

Among the substances in the strawberries that may help, she says, are vitamins, folic acid, and minerals.

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