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Breast Cancer Survival Rates Improved by Eating Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous VegetablesThis is an issue close to my heart as I’ve had so many strong women in my family cut down by this awful disease.

But first – you’re probably wondering what Cruciferous Vegetables are – they are flowering plants from the family Brassicaceae.

Or, to put it in English, here are the most common types people eat:

  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprout
  • Bok Choy
  • Watercress
  • Radish
  • Horseradish
  • Mustard Seeds
  • Wasabi

I’m pleased to say that almost all of these are a part of my regular diet – although Wasabi is just too hot for me!

At the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research which ended yesterday, researchers from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled evidence that eating these vegetables is associated with improved Breast Cancer survival rates.

Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H

The study was presented by postdoctoral fellow Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H (pictured right) who said, “Breast cancer survivors can follow the general nutritional guidelines of eating vegetables daily and may consider increasing intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as greens, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as part of a healthy diet”.

Notice how she said “may consider” instead of “definitely must do”.  This is because scientists, unlike so many quick fix selling charlatans, prefer to say what their evidence points to according to everything they’ve taken into consideration in their research – they know there could be other factors they haven’t discovered yet.

The results were from a prospective study of 4,886 Chinese breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed with stage 1 to stage 4 breast cancer from 2002 to 2006.

There are a couple of things about this study which lend weight to it.

It was prospective rather than retrospective – this means that the researchers followed the subjects from the start, rather than looking back at their progress after the event. These types of studies are less prone to “cherry picking” where the researchers unconsciously (or otherwise) select subjects who’s results reflect a preconceived notion about the outcome.

It was also done on a large scale with 4,886 subjects.  A study with only 10 subjects could give results that don’t reflect reality, while a large study will automatically remove many statistical anomalies that can occur. For example, if you flip a coin we know the outcome in the long term is that you will get heads half the time, and tails the other half.  However if you did a study where you only flipped the coin once, you would come up with the completely incorrect result that coin tosses always come up heads – or the opposite result depending on the random outcome of your study.

Another important result which helps to support the findings, the more you eat – the lower your chance of dying.

There is a small chance, which Dr Nechuta referenced in her presentation, that their results could be biased by the cohort (the people being studied). In other words there could be some special factors in China which mean these results only apply to people living in China. She did say that follow-up research is necessary.

Here’s my summary:

There’s almost no downside to eating more of these vegetables*. There is also a growing mountain of research that says replacing meat with vegetables in your diet is good for everyone.

So go ahead and eat more greens, whether you’ve had Breast Cancer or not!

*There is some evidence that Cruciferous Vegetables can lower the blood concentrations of some medications – so if you’re on meds talk with your doctor before radically increasing your intake of these vegies.

The Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study is led by Dr. Xiao Ou Shu – Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University.

For more information see


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This entry was posted on April 5, 2012 by and tagged , , , .

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