Dietary prescriptions for prevention of cancer

provided by American Institute for Cancer Research;


urrent research into the cancer-fighting properties of phytochemicals in common foods will lead to major changes in the treatment and prevention of cancer, Dr. Vay Lang W. Go of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition told reporters. He spoke at the 9th Annual Conference of the American Institute for Cancer Research held in Washington, DC.

"Early in the next century," Dr. Go said, "we will move beyond dietary guidelines to dietary prescriptions for individuals. We will be able to tell an individual which plant compounds, consumed on a regular basis, will keep his or her cancer genes from doing their thing."

The AICR conference focused on the results of laboratory research into phyto-chemicals, or cancer-fighting compounds found in soy, tea, garlic, grapes, wine and spices, as well as similar compounds in the trace mineral selenium. The last day of the conference was devoted to devising strategy for the clinical trials that will follow the current phase of lab testing.

Dr. Go said that deciphering phyto-chemicals is a momentous task, comparable to the isolation and analysis of vitamins that occurred during the first half of this century. He added that successful completion would require major contributions from several sectors of society.

"Government is already focusing on how to conduct the broad clinical trials that come next," Dr. Go said. "Since these trials will involve large numbers of people and take years to complete, government agencies and federal funding will have to play a role."

AICR estimates that at least 30 to 40 percent of all cancers are associated with diet. Yet, currently, only 1 to 3 percent of all government funding for cancer research is devoted to the cancer-nutrition link.

Referring to reports of foods being genetically altered to yield unnaturally high amounts of phytochemicals, Dr. Go also advised industry not to exploit the promise of these cancer-fighting compounds.

"As we speak, transgenic vegetables are ripening in California with three times the phytochemicals of ordinary vegetables. It is frightening to think industry is getting ready to prescribe and administer medicine before the medical profession has determined the efficacy and the proper dosage. Industry should consider waiting for scientific consensus before it accelerates the marketing specific phytochemicals," Dr. Go said.

He also warned the public to resist the temptation to load up on phytochemicals until science determines how they work. "These are powerful substances and they act differently under different circumstances, at different sites and at different concentrations," Dr. Go said. "Overdosing on supplements or even eating exorbitant amounts of individual foods containing phytochemicals is foolish, even dangerous behavior."

Dr. Go advised people concerned about cancer risk to follow AICR dietary guidelines. Choose diet rich in plant-based foods, and eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, he said.

"The time is coming when we will be able to examine a person's genetic makeup and pinpoint his or her predisposition for cancers. We will then be able to prescribe the right combination of phytochemicals to prevent cancer genes from activating and thus reduce risk of the disease to almost zero," Dr. Go said.

That is a level of capacity science will achieve, he concluded. But it's wise to remember we're not there yet.

  The American Institute for Cancer Research is the only major cancer charity focusing exclusively on the link between diet and cancer. The Institute provides a wide range of consumer education programs that have helped millions of Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the US. The Institute has provided over $50 million in funding for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR's Internet Web address is