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Studies Show Anti-Cancer Benefits of a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Here are some new studies that further emphasize the importance a healthy lifestyle has on preventing or reducing the effects of cancer.

This article is from the Independent newspaper and explains how a new study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that the antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables, as well as the naturally occurring anti-inflammatory salicylates, are associated with cancer prevention.

Anti-cancer benefits of fruit and veg are underlined

A diet high in fruit and vegetables, especially organically grown ones, may protect against cancer and heart disease and could be equivalent in this respect to taking a low dose of aspirin every day, scientists say.

Fruit and vegetables are known to have high levels of salicylates, which are also the active anti-inflammatory ingredient of aspirin. Vegetarians meanwhile are known to have low rates of cancer, as well as having higher levels of salicylates in their bodies. The conventionally grown fruit and vegetables treated with pesticides that are found on many supermarket shelves have lower levels of salicylates than those grown organically. A review of the possible link between cancer prevention and this substance found in aspirin, published in the medical journal The Lancet, says many herbs and spices are also especially rich in salicylates. This could explain international differences in cancer rates, the study said.

The salicylates in fruit and vegetables may in fact play a bigger role in protecting against cancer than the antioxidants on which research has focused until now, the researchers say.

Professor Peter Elwood, of the University of Cardiff's school of medicine, who led the review, said: "I think this is a very exciting area that should be researched in considerable depth.

"Most medical authorities have said for 20 years that it is the antioxidants in fruit and vegetables that account for their protective effects. It leads us to wonder if the beneficial effects of fruit and vegetables are because of the salicylates they contain," he said.

Salicylates, first identified in strawberries at the beginning of the 20th century, have been found to occur naturally in a wide range of plants.

Their role in reducing the likelihood of colon cancer has been previously studied, although uptake by the human body from various sources, and the likely dose needed to impact on health, is difficult to measure.

Another new study from the US has found a link between leading a healthy lifestyle and survival rates of certain cancers.

The study looked at head and neck cancer patients and found that those who led a healthy lifestyle before treatment had improved outcomes and higher survival rates.

The researchers asked 504 head and neck cancer patients about aspects of their lifestyle including what they ate, how much they exercised and how many hours they slept, and concluded that each of these factors was independently associated with survival of head and neck cancer patients.

The study author Sonia Duffy said:

"While there has been a recent emphasis on biomarkers and genes that might be linked to cancer survival, the health habits a person has at diagnosis play a major role in his or her survival,"

"Eating fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and drinking in moderation can have a big impact on a person's risk of getting cancer in the first place. Now it appears that these factors also impact survival after diagnosis,"

Study details:

Duffy SA, et al. Pretreatment health Behaviors Predict Survival Among Patients With Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma Journal of Clinical Oncology, published online ahead of print March 16, 2009