JAN 24, 2017 1:50 PM PST

For Smokers, the Brighter the Fruit, the Better

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

According to a study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, a chemical pigment found in bright fruits and vegetables may lower the risk of lung cancer caused by smoking. Although the findings could offer actionable lifestyle changes to lower lung cancer risks, it should be noted that not smoking at all is still the best form of protection.

Fruits like oranges and strawberries, or vegetables like sweet red peppers and carrots are rich in a pigment compound known as carotenoids. A version of this compound, called beta-cryptoxanthin (BCX), is hypothesized to suppress tumor growth. Specifically, scientists at Tufts University believe that BCX can reduce the number of receptors for nicotine to bind, and thereby suppressing cancer growth in the lungs.

Nicotine is one of thousands of compounds in tobacco smoke that’s been linked to lung cancer. When inhaled, the nicotine binds to receptors on the surface of the lungs called nicotinic acetylcholine receptor α7 (α7-nAChR). This initiates a chain of events that causes cell growth and proliferation – hallmark beginnings of a tumor. BCX, researchers theorized, reduces the amount of α7-nAChR, which may prevent nicotine-induced lung cancers from forming.

The team tested their hypothesis in mice exposed to nicotine-derived carcinogen. In mice treated with BCX, there were fewer lung tumors as compared to untreated mice. BCX also seemed to stop the cancer from spreading, suggesting this compound could halt lung cancer metastasis.

Of note, the dose the team used to achieve their anticancer effects was not exorbitant. The equivalent daily dose for humans would be about 870 micrograms, which is roughly one red pepper or a few tangerines per day.

The results suggest that short of quitting, smokers should really embrace fruits and vegetables – the more colorful, the better.

"For smokers, tobacco product users, or individuals at higher risk for tobacco smoke exposure, our results provide experimental evidence that eating foods high in BCX may have a beneficial effect on lung cancer risk, as suggested by previous epidemiological studies,” said Xiang-Dong Wang, the study’s lead author.

However promising these results appear, it’s important to reiterate that no smoking or quitting smoking remains the best way to avoid the cancer risks associated with tobacco.

Additional sources: MNT, Tufts University

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 23, 2020
Cancer
MAR 23, 2020
An Alternative Use for Common Kidney Cancer Drug to Fight Against Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
Axitinib is a small molecule drug that inhibits VEGFR tyrosine kinases 1, 2, and 3. Shown previously to potentially prev ...
MAR 29, 2020
Cancer
MAR 29, 2020
MicroRNA as a New Way to Test for Lung Cancer
The most common, and most deadly, cancer across the world is lung cancer. If caught early, lung cancer has quite a low m ...
APR 06, 2020
Cancer
APR 06, 2020
Should we tell people about their cancer diagnoses?
While it might seem obvious to some cultures, sharing a patient’s diagnosis with him/her is not necessarily the no ...
MAY 02, 2020
Cancer
MAY 02, 2020
Tracking DNA Methylation as a Prognostic Marker
In the modern age of biological research, one of the tools that have become readily available in the ever-increasing dat ...
MAY 21, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAY 21, 2020
Molecular 'Switch' Makes Autoimmune Drugs Fight Cancer
Researchers from the Antibody and Vaccine Group at the University of Southampton, England, have identified a way to repu ...
MAY 10, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAY 10, 2020
Antiviral Drug Treats Naso-Pharyngeal Cancer
Scientists at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) developed a novel anti-Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) drug that can shrink t ...
Loading Comments...