If you smoke, or ever have, and you eat lots of broccoli (or other cruciferous veggies such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens or collard greens), you might be doing yourself a great favor in terms of lung cancer. This according to research just presented at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting held last week in Washington D.C. by a team from Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo, NY when they concluded cruciferous vegetables can helpful as part of a cancer prevention diet.
Li Tang, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and colleagues conducted a hospital-based, case-controlled study of lung cancer cases matched with smoking status controls.
The study wasn’t focused on broccoli alone, but allowed for eating all the commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables – in either their raw or cooked forms. The study found that among smokers – and especially former smokers – higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with a lower risk of lung cancer. Smokers who ate raw veggies saw the most benefit.
Researchers divided their findings into four subtypes of lung cancer. The strongest risk reduction was seen among subjects with squamous or small-cell carcinoma, the two types most strongly associated with heavy smoking.
“Broccoli is not a therapeutic drug, but for smokers who believe they cannot quit nor do anything about their risk, this is something positive,” Tang said. “People who quit smoking will definitely benefit more from intake of cruciferous vegetables.”
The percentage of Americans who smoke has fallen below 20% for the first time since the mid 1960s. If you smoke and you’re concerned about lung cancer risk, first and foremost, you need to stop. Get help quitting from support groups, nicotine replacement therapy, hypnosis or the variety of medications now available. If you have the will (or even if you’re not sure you do) getting cigarettes out of your life for good can save you not only money, but help you take solid, real-world steps to improve your health, today and over the long haul as well.
When you do quit, your lung capacity goes up and your bronchial tubes relax which makes breathing easier. Not only this, the poisonous carbon monoxide in your blood goes down so that your blood can carry more oxygen. Of course your sense of smell, the discoloration of your teeth, fingers and clothing will also improve noticeably. Best of all, the second hand smoke you’re sending into the environment will be eliminated – a healthy gift to everyone around you.
If you’re trying to quit, or can’t quite get there yet… eat as many of the cruciferous veggies as you enjoy from the list above, especially in their raw state as heating damages an important enzyme thought to activate the cancer fighting properties.
Earlier work released in February 2008 backed up these findings with results showing that compounds called isothiocyanates from these veggies could have cancer fighting properties. The research was on bladder cancer and supported animal studies that suggest broccoli and the other cruciferous vegetables have some cancer protecting abilities. Another study, out in July 2008, suggested a link between men who ate broccoli four times a week and a protective effect against prostate cancer.
So the real story here is that we should all try to increase our consumption of cruciferous vegetables whether we smoke or not as part of a cancer prevention diet.