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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Collards and carrots may thwart breast cancer

Eating more veggies could help African American women fight an aggressive form of cancer, study says

Eating lots of carrots and cruciferous vegetables -- collard greens, cabbage, broccoli -- could reduce breast cancer risk, particularly an aggressive form common among African American women, suggests a large new study.

The researchers looking at data from the ongoing Black Women's Health Study did not find a similar benefit from fruit intake.

Previous studies of the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer in white women have led to conflicting results, and no prior research has investigated this link separately among African American women, lead researcher Dr. Deborah A. Boggs, of Boston University, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.

Boggs noted her team's earlier work showing that a so-called "prudent diet" high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish led to a lower risk of estrogen receptor-negative breast cancers among African American women.

The ER-negative form of breast cancer, which is insensitive to the hormone estrogen, is more common in this population than among white women. It is also more difficult to treat and more often fatal than estrogen-sensitive cancers.

Overall, breast cancer is the second leading cancer-killer for both African American and white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 1 in 8 American women will develop the disease at some point in life, although age, heredity and environmental factors can increase an individual's risk.

Boggs and her colleagues wanted to find out whether fruits and vegetables drove the beneficial effect they saw in women eating the prudent diet and whether specific varieties are particularly protective.

They tracked the diets and health of more than 50,000 African American women from across the U.S. for 12 years. About 1,300 of the women developed new cases of breast cancer during that period, 35 percent of them ER-negative.

Further, they identified certain types of vegetables that appeared to reduce the risk of all types of breast cancer, including broccoli, collard greens, cabbage and carrots.

Women who ate three or more servings a week of carrots, for instance, had a 17 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who ate carrots less than once a month.

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