Do fruit and vegetables help prevent cancer?

Do fruit and vegetables help prevent cancer?

There’s some evidence that certain types of fruits or vegetables work against specific cancers. Examples include the following:

Prostate cancer.
Lycopene from tomatoes and cooked or processed tomato products, such as tomato sauce and ketchup, seems to be involved in the prevention of prostate cancer. In the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, for example, men who consumed several servings of tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato juice a week were less likely to develop advanced prostate cancer than those who ate one to two servings a week. This finding has been supported by studies that look at blood levels of lycopene and other carotenoids.

Breast cancer.

One problem with studying breast cancer is that it isn’t a single disease. It is several different diseases, each with its risk factors. One type, estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer, is particularly aggressive and more likely to be deadly. By combining data from cohort studies around the world, researchers were able to examine breast cancers by their estrogen receptor status. They found that consuming more vegetables was linked to a lower risk of developing estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer. Eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Colon and rectal cancer

There is strong evidence that the vitamin folate (also called folic acid) helps protect against colon and rectal cancer. Vegetables such as spinach and beets are good sources of folic acid and so can help fight these cancers. Today, though, with so many foods fortified with folic acid, the contribution of this vitamin from fruits and vegetables to protection against colon and rectal cancer may be dwindling.

Bladder cancer

Eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli has been linked with lower rates of bladder cancer.

Do fruit and vegetables help prevent cancer?

Do fruit and vegetables help prevent cancer?

Do fruit and vegetables help prevent cancer?


1. Boffetta, P., et al. “Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Overall Cancer Risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 21 (2010): 529– 37.
2. Smith-Warner, S. A., et al. “Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of Cohort Studies.” JAMA 285 (2001):769–76.
3. Hendrickson, S. J., et al. “Plasma Carotenoid- and Retinol-Weighted Multi-SNP Scores and Risk of Breast Cancer in the National Cancer Institute Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium.” CancerEpidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention 22 (2013): 927–36.
4. Giovannucci, E. “Tomatoes, Tomato-Based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer: Review of the Epidemiologic Literature.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 91 (1999): 317–31.
5. Farvid, M. S., et al. “Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Adolescence and Early Adulthood and Risk of Breast Cancer: Population Based Cohort Study.” BMJ 353 (2016): i2343.

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