Scientific & Medical Research

Studies Done on the Relationship between Cancer & Diet

Macrobiotics and Cancer

In the first major scientific study of the macrobiotic approach to cancer, researchers at Tulane University reported that the 1-year survival rate among patients with pancreatic cancer was significantly higher among those who modified their diet than among those who did not (17 months versus 6 months). The one-year survival rate was 54.2 percent in the macrobiotic patients versus 10.0 percent in the controls. All comparisons were statistically significant.

For patients with metastatic prostate cancer, a case control study demonstrated that those who ate macrobiotically lived longer (177 months compared to 91 months) and enjoyed an improved quality of life. The researchers concluded that the macrobiotic approach may be an effective adjunctive treatment to conventional treatment or in primary management of cancers with a nutritional association. “This exploratory analysis suggests that a strict macrobiotic diet is more likely to be effective in the long-term management of cancer than are diets that provide a variety of other foods,” the study concluded.
Source: James P. Carter et al., “Hypothesis: Dietary Management May Improve Survival from Nutritionally Linked Cancers Based on Analysis of Representative Cases,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 12:209-226, 1993.

Research on Cancer and Macrobiotics

In a study of patients with advanced malignancies who followed a macrobiotic way of eating, Vivien Newbold, M.D., a Philadelphia physician documented six cases of remission. The patients had pancreatic cancer with metastases to the liver; malignant melanoma; malignant astrocytoma; endometrial stromal sarcoma; adenocarcinoma of the colon; and inoperable intra-abdominal leimyosarcoma. Review of CT scans and other medical tests revealed no evidence of tumors after adherence to the macrobiotic diet. All of the patients (except for one whose cancer came back after she discontinued macrobiotics) were reported working full time, leading very active lives, and feeling in excellent health. The cases were all reviewed independently and the diagnoses confirmed by the pathology and radiology departments of Holy Redeemer Hospital in Meadowbrook, Pa. In a review of her study, Congressional investigators recommended further research on the macrobiotic approach to cancer: “If cases such as Newbold’s were presented in the medical literature, it might help stimulate interest among clinical investigators in conducting controlled, prospective trials of macrobiotic regimens, which could provide valid data on effectiveness.”

Source: Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Unconventional Cancer Treatments (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1990).

Diet and Colon Cancer

Men in Finland consume a lot of fat and have the highest heart disease rate in the industrialized world. Yet they have one of the lowest colon cancer rates (one-third that of the U.S.). Researchers around the world have found that whole cereal grains protect against colon cancer by reducing bile acid concentrates in the large intestine and giving bulk to the feces. Investigators found that Finnish men consume high amounts of whole rye bread and had bowel movements three times bulkier than men in other Western countries as well as reduced amounts of bile acid buildup.

Source: H. N. Englyst et al., “Nonstarch Polysaccharide Concentrations in Four Scandinavian Populations,”Nutrition & Cancer 4:50-60, 1982.

Eating more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit may lower a person’s risk for colorectal cancer by up to 40 percent. Researchers at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia looked at thirty-seven studies involving 10,000 people in fifteen countries and reported that those who ate a diet high in whole grains and other plant-quality foods had about 40 percent less risk of this disease.

Source: Bruce Tock, Elaine Lanza, and Peter Greenwald, “Dietary Fiber, Vegetables, and Colon Cancer: Critical Review and Meta-analyses of the Epidemiologic Evidence,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 82:650-661, 1990.

Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health reported that men with the lowest fat intake, averaging 24 percent of calories, had only half the rate of colon polyps, a common precursor of colon cancer, as men eating the usual amount of fat. “A modest reduction [of fat such as proposed by current medical guidelines] will not appreciably reduce the risk,” said Dr. Tim Byers of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. He described an effective cancer-prevention diet as one that included six servings a day of whole grains and legumes and five or six servings of vegetables and fruits.

Source: “Very Low Rate of Fat in Diet Is Advised to Fight Cancer,” Boston Globe, April 23, 1991.

Cruciferous Vegetables and Colon Cancer

In Norway, researchers examined the colons of 155 people in their fifties who had no signs of colon cancer. Half had polyps growing in the colon; the half with no polyps ate more cruciferous vegetables. The less cruciferous vegetables consumed, the greater the risk for polyps and the larger and more abnormal the polyps.

Source: G. Hoff et. al., Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 21:199, 1986.

Beans and Bile Acids

Beans lowered bile acid production by 30 percent in men with a tendency toward elevated bile acid. Bile acids are necessary for proper fat digestion but in excess have been associated with causing cancer, especially in the large intestine. Case-control studies showed that pinto and navy beans were effective in lowering bile acid production in men at high risk for this condition.

Source: J. Anderson, “Hypocholesterolemic Effects of Oat-Bran or Bean Intake for Hypercholesterolemic Men,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 40:1146-55, 1984.

Lentils and Esophageal Tumors

A study in the Caspian littoral of Iran, an area of high esophageal cancer, associated this disease with lower intake of lentils and other pulses, cooked green vegetables, and other whole foods.

Source: H. Hormozdiari et al., “Dietary Factors and Esophageal Cancer in the Caspian Littoral of Iran,” Cancer Research 35:3493-98, 1975.

Fiber and Esophageal Cancer

An epidemiological study found that populations with a low risk of esophageal cancer in Africa and Asia consume more millet, cassava, yams, peanuts, and other foods high in fiber or starch than high-risk groups.

Source: S. J. van Rensburg, “Epidemiologic and Dietary Evidence for a Specific Nutritional Predisposition to Esophageal Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 67:243-51, 1981.

Diet and Leukemia in chickens

In 1972 a Japanese scientist reported that leukemia in chickens could be reversed by feeding them a mixture of whole grains and salt. The experiment was conducted by Keiichi Morishita, M.D., technical chief for the Tokyo Red Cross Blood Center and vice president of the New Blood Association.

Source: K. Morishita, M.D., The Hidden Truth of Cancer (San Francisco: George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation, 1972).

Vegetables and Lung Cancer

A Chicago study found that regular consumption of foods containing beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, protected against lung cancer. Over a period of nineteen years, a group of 1,954 men at a Western Electric plant were monitored, and those who regularly consumed carrots, dark green lettuce, spinach, broccoli, kale, Chinese cabbage, peaches, apricots, and other carotene-rich foods had significantly lower lung cancer rates than controls.

Source: R. B. Shekelle et al., “Dietary Vitamin A and Risk of Cancer in the Western Electric Study,” Lancet 2:1185-90, 1981.

Fat and Lung Cancer

In a review of the relation of diet, lifestyle, and lung cancer, researchers found that calories from dietary fat were highly significantly associated with lung cancer mortality. For example, male lung cancer deaths are highest in West European countries where a high-fat diet is consumed, and lowest in Thailand, Philippines, Honduras, Guatemala, and Japan where a low-fat diet is eaten.
While noting that smoking is still the major causative factor of lung cancer, the scientists theorized that a high-fat diet might also trigger the process by which cigarette smoke is harmful to the lungs. It is conceivable that “tobacco smoke is readily oxidized to the ultimate carcinogen as a consequence of a high-fat diet.”

Source: Ernst L. Wynder, James R. Hebert, and Geoffrey Kabat, “Association of Dietary Fat and Lung Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 79:631-37, 1987.

Lymphoma and Diet

Persons who regularly eat cereal grains, pulses, vegetables, seeds, and nuts are less likely to get lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease than persons who do not usually eat these foods, according to a 1976 survey based on World Health Organization data.

Source: A. S. Cunningham, “Lymphomas and Animal-Protein Consumption,” Lancet 2:1184-86.

Shiitake and Sarcomas

Japanese scientists at the National Cancer Center Research Institute reported that shiitake mushrooms had a strong anti-tumor effect. In experiments with mice, polysaccharide preparations from various natural sources, including the shiitake mushroom commonly available in Tokyo markets, markedly inhibited the growth of induced sarcomas resulting in “almost complete regression of tumors . . . with no sign of toxicity.”

Source: G. Chihara et al., “Fractionation and Purification of the Polysaccharides with Marked Antitumor Activity, Especially Lentinan, from Lentinus edodes (Berk.) Sing. (An Edible Mushroom),” Cancer Research 30:2776-81, 1970.

Sea Vegetables and Sarcomas

Japanese scientists reported that several varieties of kombu and mojaban, common sea vegetables eaten in Asia and traditionally used as a decoction for cancer in Chinese herbal medicine, were effective in the treatment of tumors in laboratory experiments. In three of four samples tested, inhibition rates in mice with implanted sarcomas ranged from 89 to 95 percent. The researchers reported that “the tumor underwent complete regression in more than half of the mice of each treated group. ” Similar experiments on mice with leukemia showed promising results.

Source: I. Yamamoto et al., “Antitumor Effect of Seaweeds,” Japanese Journal of Experimental Medicine 44:543-46, 1974.

Miso Soup and Stomach Cancer

Japan’s National Cancer Center reported that people who eat miso soup daily are 33 percent less likely to contract stomach cancer and 19 percent less likely to contract cancer at other sites than those who never eat miso soup. The thirteen-year study, involving about 265,000 men and women over forty, also found that those who never ate miso soup had a 43 percent higher death rate from coronary heart disease than those who consumed miso soup daily. Those who abstained from miso also had 29 percent more fatal strokes, three and a half times more deaths resulting from high blood pressure, and higher mortality from all other causes.

Source: T. Hirayama, “Relationship of Soybean Paste Soup Intake to Gastric Cancer Risk,” Nutrition and Cancer 3:223-33, 1981.

Tofu and Stomach Cancer

Japanese cancer researchers found that people who regularly ate tofu were at less risk for stomach cancer than those who did not.

Source: T. Hirayama, “Epidemiology of Stomach Cancer,” in T. Murakami (ed.), Early Gastric Cancer. Gann Monograph on Cancer Research, 11 (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, pp. 3-19), 1971.

Chewing and Cancer

An Indian cancer researcher concluded that thorough chewing lowered the risk of cancer. “The proper chewing of meals ensuring that mucous-rich saliva mixed with the food seemed to be protective factors.” Cancer also appeared to be more prevalent in South India where white rice and considerably more fat, oil, and spices are used in cooking than in Northern India where whole-grain chapatis and thick dal made with lentils are the staple.

Source: S. L. Malhotra, “Dietary Factors in a Study of Cancer Colon from Cancer Registry, with Special Reference to the Role of Saliva, Milk and Fermented Milk Products, and Vegetable Fibre,” Medical Hypotheses 3:122-26, 1977.

Cholesterol and Lung Cancer

In studies of men employed by the Western Electric Company in Chicago, researchers reported that men who ingested 500 milligrams or more of dietary cholesterol a day faced almost twice the risk of lung cancer as those who ate less than that amount. Eggs were cited as the chief cause.

Source: R. B. Shekelle et al., “Dietary Cholesterol and Incidence of Lung Cancer,” American Journal of Epidemiology 134:48084, 1992.

Broccoli and Cancer

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reported that they had identified the ingredient in broccoli that worked as a powerful anticancer compound in laboratory experiments. The chemical, sulforaphane, boosts the production of an important enzyme known to neutralize carcinogens before they trigger tumor growth. In addition to broccoli, sulforaphane is found in bok choy, ginger, scallions, and other vegetables.

Source: Paul Talalay, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 16, 1992.

Soy Sauce and Cancer

The high rate of stomach cancer in Japan caused some Japanese scientists to speculate that a diet high in soy sauce might be a factor. However, researchers at the University of Wisconsin observed just the opposite. In laboratory tests, mice given fermented soy sauce experienced 26 percent less cancer than mice on the regular diet. Also soy-supplemented mice averaged about one-quarter the number of tumors per mouse as the control group. Soy sauce “exhibited a pronounced anticarcinogenic effect,” the researchers concluded.

Source: J. Raloff, “A Soy Sauce Surprise,” Science News, 139:357, 1991.

Vegetables and Bladder Cancer

In a case-control study in Hawaii, researchers reported a decreased risk for bladder cancer among women who consumed vegetables and fruits high in vitamin C, such as broccoli, cabbage, and oranges, and among men who consumed dark green vegetables such as watercress, broccoli, and spinach.

Source: A.M.Y. Nomura et al., “Dietary Factors in Cancer of the Lower Urinary Tract,” International Journal of Cancer 48:199205.

Fruits and Vegetables and Cancer

In a review of 200 studies that examined the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake and cancer at selected sites, researchers found that consumption of these foods offered a significantly protective effect in 128 of 156 dietary studies in which results were expressed in terms of relative risk. For lung cancer, these foods were protective in 24 of 25 studies after control for smoking in most instances. Fruit was protective for tumors of the esophagus, oral cavity, and larynx in 28 of 29 studies. Vegetables and fruit were protective in 26 of 30 studies for the pancreas and stomach, as well as in colorectal and bladder cancers (23 of 38 studies). For malignancies of the cervix, ovary, and endometrium, a significant protective effect was shown in 11 of 13 studies. In breast cancer, a protective effect was found to be strong and consistent in meta-analysis. Overall, the relative risk of cancer was about twice as high for those eating few fruits and vegetables compared to those who ate plenty of these foods.

“In 1854, John Snow stopped a cholera epidemic simply by taking the handle off the pump. The research presented above suggests that consumption of fruits and vegetables may be a handle that, if manipulated by public policy, clinical advice, and public education, could have a substantial impact on a wide range of cancers,” the researchers concluded.

Source: Gladys Block et al., “Fruits, Vegetables, and Cancer Prevention: A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence,” Nutrition and Cancer 18:1-29, 1992.

Diet and Leukemia

In one of the first studies of the relationship between diet and leukemia, researchers found a strong correlation between total caloric intake and both lymphoid and total leukemia incidence, especially among males. “The findings from this rigorous analysis of international data strengthen and expand the hypothesis based on previous simple correlation analyses and animal experiments that an underlying biological relationship exists between diet, particularly energy intake, and international variations in the incidence of certain types of human leukemia.”

Source: S. D. Hursting et al., “Diet and Human Leukemia: An Analysis of International Data,” Preventive Medicine 22:409-22, 1993.

Diet and Pancreatic Cancer

In a study of risk factors for pancreatic cancer, researchers found that mortality from this disease was associated with increased consumption of meat, the smoking of cigarettes, and alcohol intake.

Source: W. Zheng et al., “A Cohort Study of Smoking, Alcohol Consumption, and Dietary Factors for Pancreatic Cancer,” Cancer Causes and Control 4:477-82, 1993.

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