In an analysis of data from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) which is an ongoing prospective cohort study, scientists found that the consumption of 2.9 servings of fruit daily during one’s adolescence was associated with a 25% reduced risk of breast cancer in comparison with only 0.5 of servings of fruit a day. The findings were published last may in the BMJ. The study was carried out by Maryam S. Farvid, Ph.D. from the Department of Nutrition at the Harward T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues. We already know that fruits and vegetables are an important source of nutrients and active substances that help fight cancer. Since breast tissue is particularly susceptible to cancer-causing factors especially in childhood and early adult life as observed in data on women exposed to radiation, scientists wanted to see if early fruit intake had a positive effect on breast tissue.
About the Study
The NHSII is an ongoing study that began in 1989 and that involved 116 430 registered female nurses ages 25 to 42. The data analyzed by the team at the Harward T.H. Chan School of Public Health included 97 813 of the women who returned the food frequency questionnaire in 1991. In 1997, the participants were asked if they would be willing to complete another questionnaire about their dietary habits during high school. When excluding women the scientists found ineligible for this particular study, a total of 44 223 women were evaluated. The follow-up rate from 1998 to 2013 was 89%.
After analyzing the data, researchers reported that women with the highest fiber intake during early adulthood had a 0.81 relative risk for breast cancer compared to women with low fiber intake. As far as data from the NHSII cohort goes, women who consumed more fiber during their adolescent years had as much as a 24% reduced risk of developing breast cancer before they entered menopause in comparison with women who reported eating low-fiber diets. Their high-fiber group’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer was reduced by 16% according to the study.
Does the type of Fruit Matter?
To investigate fiber intake, the researchers analyzed total fruit and vegetable intake during adolescence and early adulthood in both questionnaires. They also focused on the different fruits and vegetables, especially the ones rich in? carotene. There was also an association between fruit intake and tumor type. Higher fruit intake seems to have a stronger effect on reducing estrogen and progesterone receptor negative cancers compared with estrogen and progesterone positive breast cancers.
Out of 90 476 women, 3235 developed invasive breast cancer in the 22 years follow-up. Of these, 1347 cases were women who gave dietary information for their adolescent years. A higher intake of fruit was associated with lower risks of breast cancer. But higher fruit intake during early adulthood was not associated with lower risks of breast cancer according to their hazard ratio rates. These results were the same even after adjustments for red meat intake and other lifestyle choices.
Which Fruits Should one Eat?
As far as vegetable type is concerned, carotene rich fruits and vegetables were specifically associated with the lower cancer risks. These fruits include apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and kale. The NHSII reported a lower risk of breast cancer with high intake of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Previous studies also found that carotenoids seem to reduce the risk of breast cancer which was further acknowledged with this study.
Researcher’s hold on This
These findings suggest that high intake of fruit during adolescent years reduces the risk of breast cancer in later life. This is especially true for fruits and vegetables rich in ? carotene found in yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables. But besides fruit intake, to double this benefit, the researchers suggest taking other dietary and lifestyle measures to prevent the chances of getting breast cancer. Cancer preventing recommendation always included a higher intake of fruit so this study further supports this notion. While previous studies focused on analyzing the relationship between fruit intake and cancer in later life, this study wanted to see if there was a link between early dietary habits and later chances of developing breast cancer.
Eating at least 3 servings of fruit a day will reduce your chances of developing breast cancer by 25%. This is especially true if you eat more fruits and vegetables rich in? carotene. Carotenoids were associated with lower cancer risks in previous studies and this study has further confirmed the link. Nutrients and active ingredients in fruits are long known for their cancer-fighting properties, but what we did not know is that starting early in life is more important if we want to remain healthy in later adulthood.
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