Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have found that eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 50 per cent.
The vegetables most strongly associated with increased protection were onions, garlic, beans, yellow vegetables (such as carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, corn and yellow squash), dark leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. Light-green vegetables, tomatoes and tomato products showed weaker protective benefits.
Fruits were found to be protective but significantly less so than vegetables, with citrus fruits and citrus juices most protective.
The study was based on in-person interviews of pancreatic cancer patients and randomly selected controls. Control group participants did not have pancreatic cancer but were of a similar age distribution and similar male to female ratio as the pancreatic cancer patients.
They were asked about their fruit and vegetable consumption for the one-year period prior to the interview, as well as other questions about diet, smoking, occupation and other factors.
The results will be published in the September issue of the journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
"Pancreatic cancer is not nearly as common as breast or lung cancer, but its diagnosis and treatment are particularly difficult," said Elizabeth A. Holly, PhD, UCSF professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and senior author of the study.
"Finding strong confirmation that simple life choices can provide significant protection from pancreatic cancer may be one of the most practical ways to reduce the incidence of this dreadful disease."
Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and remains largely untreatable. It kills about 30,000 people in the US each year and has a five-year survival under four per cent.
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute.