What fruits and vegetables have to do with cancer

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Omer Kucuk, MD:
What fruits and vegetables have to do with cancer
January 14, 2009

Back in the 1980s, only a handful of researchers were exploring how specific foods may prevent cancer. Omer Kucuk, MD, was one of those researchers. Now a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory Winship Cancer Institute, Kucuk is focused on foods' effect on cancer prevention and treatment, as well as its effect on other diseases such as osteoporosis.

Many foods contain bioactive compounds, particularly in fruits, vegetables, and legumes that display potent anticancer activities, says Kucuk. For example, evidence exists that specific food compounds such as soy isoflavones and curcumin can increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy in patients with advanced prostate cancer.

What's more, many nutritional compounds used for therapy or disease prevention can be taken as part of a routine diet and have little if any side effects, explains Kucuk. "The tomato carotenoid lycopene has cancer-preventing properties. People can get enough lycopene by eating tomato paste and tomato sauce, which is very rich in lycopene. So, if people ate a couple of ounces of tomato paste a day as part of a regular diet, they would eat enough to get all the benefits," Kucuk says.

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