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Eating cruciferous vegetables may improve breast cancer survival

April 3, 2012

A study by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention investigators reveals that breast cancer survivors who eat more cruciferous vegetables may have improved survival. The study of women in China was presented by postdoctoral fellow Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill.

Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., postdoctoral fellow, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

“Breast cancer survivors can follow the general nutritional guidelines of eating vegetables daily and may consider increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as part of a healthy diet,” said Nechuta.

Nechuta, Xiao Ou Shu, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues investigated the role of cruciferous vegetables in breast cancer survival among women in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, a prospective study of 4,886 Chinese breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed with stage 1 to stage 4 breast cancer from 2002 to 2006. Shu, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, is the principal investigator of the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study.

After adjusting for demographics, clinical characteristics and lifestyle factors, the researchers found cruciferous vegetable intake during the first 36 months after breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk for total mortality, breast cancer-specific mortality and disease recurrence.

Survival rates were influenced by vegetable consumption in a dose–response pattern. As women ate more of these vegetables, their risk of death or cancer recurrence decreased.

Women who were in the highest quartiles of intake of vegetables per day had a 62 percent reduced risk of total mortality, 62 percent reduced risk of breast cancer mortality, and 35 percent reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, compared to women with the lowest quartile of intake”.

Nechuta noted that cruciferous vegetable consumption habits differ between China and the United States and suggested this fact be considered when generalizing these results to U.S. breast cancer survivors.

“Commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in China include turnips, Chinese cabbage/bok choy and greens, while broccoli and Brussels sprouts are the more commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables in the United States and other Western countries,” she said. “The amount of intake among Chinese women is also much higher than that of U.S. women.”

Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals known as isothiocyanates and indoles which appear to have a protective effect against some types of cancer.

Nechuta said the level of these bioactive compounds, proposed to play a role in the anticancer effects of cruciferous vegetables, depends on both the amount and type of cruciferous vegetables consumed.

She said there is a need for future studies that measure the bioactive compounds in these vegetables and the host factors that may influence the effects of these compounds to improve the understanding of the association between cruciferous vegetable consumption and breast cancer outcomes


 

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