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by Dr. C.H. Weaver M.D.

Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits may help lower risk of squamous cell lung cancer, particularly among people who smoke. These findings were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Studies have suggested that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer. Many major health organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day to prevent cancer and other diseases.

Results from previous studies of vegetable and fruit consumption have suggested that eating a large amount, or quantity, of produce may help protect against lung cancer. According to this recent European study, however, eating a variety of vegetables and fruits may be a more important component of lung cancer prevention than quantity.

Researchers involved in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) evaluated about 450,000 individuals and collected information on their consumption of 14 fruits and 26 vegetables—all commonly eaten varieties. Of the participants, approximately 1,600 were diagnosed with lung cancer.

Results indicated that regardless of the amount of vegetables and fruits consumed, people who ate a variety of produce had a lower risk of lung cancer, particularly squamous cell lung cancer. The risk reduction was seen only in people who were current smokers.

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One researcher explained why eating a variety of vegetables and fruits may be important: “Fruits and vegetables contain many different bioactive compounds, and it makes sense to assume that it is important that you not only eat the recommended amounts, but also consume a rich mix of these bioactive compounds by consuming a large variety.”

The researchers add that while vegetables and fruits may reduce lung cancer risk among smokers, not smoking and avoiding all tobacco use remains the most important and only proven measure in lung cancer prevention.


Büchner FL, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Ros MM, at al. Variety in fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of lung cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention [early online publication]. August 31, 2010.

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