Cancer Reserach Update

A Living Database, Breast Cancer Risk, and Ice Cream Costs

June 27, 2012 | Issue 99

Also in this issue:

  1. In Brief: Four Years, Four More Minutes of TV
  2. More Fruits and Veggies; Lower Breast Cancer Risk
  3. Salad Dressings Can Boost Carotenoids
  4. Does Ice Cream Cost More than an Apple?

A Living Database on Cancer Prevention Grows Larger

stack of reportsThe latest step in AICR/WCRF’s rigorous, ongoing, and systematic process of evaluating cancer prevention research took place last week, at a meeting of scientists involved with AICR/WCRF’s Continuous Update Project (CUP). This time, the CUP panel focused on synthesizing the data on reducing the risk of pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

A Continuous Stream of Studies

The results of this latest evaluation, scheduled for release in the coming months, will be the third report from the landmark Continuous Update Project. The CUP, which builds on AICR/WCRF’s 2007 expert report, is the largest living database on food, nutrition, physical activity and cancer risk in the world.

Developing a systematic process for the continuous update and evaluation of cancer prevention research was a major challenge and involved close collaboration with a team of internationally renowned scientists, said AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham.

“Having the CUP ensures that the advice we give people will always be based on a rigorous examination of the totality of the evidence. It helps to take away the confusion that people feel when they hear about a single new study,” she said.

“Having the CUP ensures that the advice we give people will always be based on a rigorous examination of the totality of the evidence.”

In the past, reviews of the research searched for all relevant studies and analyzed the findings, but studies were not continuously collected. With the CUP, however, the relevant studies keep streaming in as they are published and become part of a huge, living database, which means researchers can always look at the entire body of evidence on a cancer at any point in time.

The systematic review of the evidence is carried out by WCRF/AICR-funded scientists at Imperial College London. (The Imperial team also publishes its own findings of the evidence; see below.)

Once a month for each cancer site already begun, the scientists search online for new published prospective studies and clinical trials that meet the criteria of the CUP protocol. Currently, they are updating cancers of the breast, prostate, colorectum and pancreas. Breast cancer survivorship, then cancers of the endometrium, ovarian, bladder and kidney are scheduled to follow.

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CUP Studies Added 1980-2010
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Last week’s CUP Panel meeting also worked on developing the first systematic review of the research focusing on mechanisms. The review will look at how diet and other lifestyle factors – such as dietary fiber, garlic, or physical activity – influence the processes that lead to cancer development.

Updated Findings

If you missed it, here are the key findings from the CUP on breast and colorectal cancers.

Breast Cancer: The review of research concluded that women can reduce their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, not having extra abdominal fat, being physically active, not drinking alcohol, and breastfeeding their children.

For premenopausal breast cancer, women can reduce their risk by not drinking alcohol and breastfeeding their children. For younger women, excess body fat was found to decrease risk of breast cancer but because being overweight and obese is strongly linked to increased risk for seven cancers – along with many other chronic diseases – AICR recommends all women aim to get to and stay a healthy weight.

Colorectal Cancer: The evidence that foods containing fiber protects again colorectal cancer has become stronger over the years, leading to the report to conclude the evidence is now convincing. The report also found that other ways Americans can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer include being physically active, and having diets high in calcium, garlic, and milk.

With your generous support, AICR funds reserch in diet, physical activity and weight management. Help us asvance our vital research mission with a donation, today.Being overweight, having excess belly fat, eating diets high in red and processed meat, and drinking alcohol all increase the risk of this cancer.

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In Brief: Four Years, Four More Minutes of TV

tv and remoteWalking to work, at work and having a college degree or higher all indicate that people will watch less TV as they get older, suggests a new study.

The study looked at how much television almost 900 Australian adults reported watching at the start of the study and then again four years later. In general, adults tend to watch more TV as we age.

When they study began participants were watching an average of 112 minutes of television a day. Four years later the average had nudged up to 116 minutes. Each additional hour of physical activity at work and getting to work was linked to watching two percent and seven percent less TV at the end of the study. Having a higher education was linked with 13 percent lower TV time.

But for men, doing more yard work or other activity around the house linked to watching more television. Each additional hour of physical activity around the house linked to watching 7 percent more television at the end of the study. Among women, there was no link between doing chores or other domestic activity and watching TV.

Source: Ding D, Sugiyama T, Winkler E, Cerin E, Wijndaele K, Owen N. “Correlates of Change in Adults' Television Viewing Time: A Four-Year Follow-up Study.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul;44(7):1287-1292.

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Research Roundup

More Fruits and Veggies; Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Red & Yellow apples on opposite sides of an old scaleEating just a couple servings of fruits and vegetables every day may reduce women’s risk of breast cancer a small but significant amount, with higher amounts decreasing risk even more, suggests a major new review of the research. The analysis was published last week in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

The research was funded by the World Cancer Research Fund as part of AICR/WCRF's Continuous Update Project (CUP), an ongoing review of cancer prevention research. It builds on a 2007 and 2009 AICR/WCRF review of the literature. The most recent CUP conclusions found the research was too limited to draw a conclusion.

Researchers analyzed the 15 relevant population studies on the topic. All the studies were prospective, meaning they followed a group of people over time.

The study found that for every 200 grams of fruits and vegetables consumed daily – roughly one and a half cups – the risk of breast cancer was four percent lower. Consuming 400 grams daily would mean an eight percent lower risk, and so on. For fruits alone, consuming 200 grams daily lowered risk by six percent.

Higher intake of fruits and vegetables is linked to lower prevalence of obesity, note the authors. It’s possible that this may have influenced the findings because obesity increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. Yet most but not all of the studies adjusted for this.

Government recommendations say women should eat between 3.5 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, depending upon age and activity level. The amount of grams in each cup depends upon the fruit or vegetable. One cup of blueberries (one serving), for example, is 140 grams, a cup of cooked tomatoes is 240 grams, and a cup of bananas is 150 grams.

Source: Aune D, Chan DS, Vieira AR, Rosenblatt DA, Vieira R, Greenwood DC, Norat T. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Jun 16.

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Salad Dressings Can Boost Carotenoids

oily & creamy salad dressings

Those healthy fat-soluble carotenoid compounds in fruits and vegetables need fat for our cells to best absorb them. A new study that looked at types of fat now suggests that topping your salad with enough fat will give you more of the vegetables’ carotenoids.

The study, published online in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, focused on a handful of carotenoids, including lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Lab studies show these compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And AICR’s expert report and its updates show that eating foods containing carotenoids lowers the risk of mouth, pharynx, and lung cancers.

In the study, 29 people ate salads with three different fat-based dressings. Canola oil was used for the monounsaturated fat; soybean oil for the polyunsaturated; and butter for the saturated fat. Salads were topped with varying amounts of each fat to represent low-fat dressing (3 grams), moderate (8 grams), and high fat (20 grams). A tablespoon of oil is 14 grams. After salad-eaters scooped their bowl clean researchers measured carotenoid levels in their blood.

When looking at all the fats together, eating 20 grams led to absorbing more carotenoids than the moderate or low amounts. The type of fat had less effect on carotenoid absorption and the differences among fats were not significant. but there were trends.

The canola oil (monounsaturated fat) promoted the highest absorption of carotenoids, followed by the soybean (polyunsaturated fat) and then the butter (saturated fat).†Also, carotenoid absorption was similar whether eating 3 grams or 20 grams of the monounsaturated canola-oil. More research is needed looking at how other foods in the meal – and even throughout the day – may affect carotenoid absorption, the authors write.

Source: Goltz, S. R., Campbell, W. W., Chitchumroonchokchai, C., Failla, M. L. and Ferruzzi, M. G. (2012), Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans. Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 56:†866877.

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Does Ice Cream Cost More than an Apple?

Leaf detail

Healthy Food Prices
Click on the image for a larger version.
Source: U. S. Department of Agriculture.

It’s commonly accepted that healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are more expensive than the unhealthy ones. Not so, finds a new government report, at least when the costs are calculated by the average portion and weight.

The report compared the prices of 4,439 healthy and relatively less-healthy foods using three common measures: cost per calorie; cost per weight; and cost per portion. Except for the costs per calorie, the report concluded that healthy foods cost less than their counterparts.

Lettuce ranked as among the most expensive when calculating the cost per calorie, for example. But the vegetable shifted to among the least expensive when measuring the cost for an average portion. For ice cream versus the apple: By calorie, ice cream costs less than each calorie of the fruit. But when measured by what people eat on average, their places reversed.

ERS researchers calculate that fruits ranged from 13 cents to $1.65 per average amount consumed and vegetables from 6 cents to $1.27, while less healthy foods ranged from 2 cents to $3.04.††

Source: Carlson, Andrea, and Elizabeth Fraz„o. Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It depends on How You Measure the Price, EIB-96, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2012.

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