Fruits and Vegetables Reduce Risk of Stomach Cancer

Diets lower in foods common in Western diets can significantly reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.

According to a recent article in the American Journal of Epidemiology, diets higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in foods common in Western diets (such as processed meats, soft drinks, and sugars) can significantly reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.

Cancer of the stomach is called gastric cancer. Gastric adenocarcinoma is the most common type of stomach cancer. It arises from cells that line the surface of the stomach. An important risk factor for gastric cancer is infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

Although the frequency of gastric cancer has been declining, rates of the disease remain high in many parts of the world. Because of the number of people affected by gastric cancer and the generally poor prognosis, researchers continue to search for ways to prevent it.

Some studies have suggested that diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers, including gastric cancer. Researchers are continuing to evaluate the association between diet and specific cancers. Such research could identify steps—such as dietary changes—that people can take in their daily lives to reduce their risk of developing cancer.

Researchers from Canada and the United States recently conducted a clinical study to further explore the potential relationship between dietary habits and the development of gastric cancer. The study included 1,169 patients who had been diagnosed with gastric cancer and 2,332 people who did not have gastric cancer.

  • A Western diet, characterized by soft drinks, processed meats, refined grains, and sugars, was associated with
    an 86 percent increased risk of developing gastric
    cancer among women and a 44 percent increased risk among men.
  • Diets that included increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and fish were associated with an approximately 60 percent decreased risk of developing gastric cancer among women and an approximately 54 percent decreased risk among men.

The researchers concluded that diets high in fruits and vegetables and lower in meats, sugars, and refined grains resulted in significantly reduced rates of gastric cancer. These results provide further evidence that dietary habits may have a significant impact on the risk of developing various cancers.

Reference
Campbell PT, Sloan M, Kreiger N. Dietary patterns and risk of incident gastric adenocarcinoma. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2008;167(3):295-304.

Dietary Supplement Use Widespread Among Cancer Survivors

According to the results of a review published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, many cancer survivors use vitamin or mineral supplements in spite of limited information about the potential risks and benefits. Furthermore, many physicians are unaware of their patients’ use of these supplements.

Many cancer survivors use dietary supplements in the hope of managing treatment side effects, reducing the risk of
cancer recurrence, or improving overall health. The health effects of vitamin and mineral supplements are poorly understood, however, and may not always be good. For example, the herbal remedy St. John’s wort may interfere with certain types of chemotherapy drugs. It is important, therefore, for physicians to be aware of the supplements that their patients are using or considering.

To provide information about the extent of vitamin and mineral supplement use among cancer survivors, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington combined information from 32 studies published between 1999 and 2006.

  • In studies that included a range of cancer types, the percent of patients reporting any vitamin or mineral supplement use ranged from 64 percent to 81 percent. This is higher than the roughly 50 percent that has been reported for the general U.S. adult population.
  • Use of vitamin or mineral supplements varied by cancer type. Use was highest among breast cancer patients and lowest among prostate cancer patients.
  • Use of vitamin or mineral supplements tended to be highest among those with the most education.
  • Up to 68 percent of patients who were using supplements had not discussed their supplement use with their physician.

These results suggest that vitamin and mineral supplement use is widespread among cancer survivors. It remains unclear, however, whether this use is beneficial or harmful for cancer survivors, and whether the effects of use vary by timing (i.e. before treatment, during treatment, or after treatment).

Patients are encouraged to talk with their physicians about any dietary supplements that they are using or considering.

Reference:
Velicer CM, Ulrich CM. Vitamin and mineral supplement use among U.S. adults after cancer diagnosis: a systematic review. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2008;26:665-673.

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