Eating your greens can cut lung cancer risk

Last updated at 09:44 28 October 2005

Eating your greens really is good for you. New research has found vegetables from the cabbage family like broccoli can reduce your risk of lung cancer by a third.

But only those with the 'right genes' will gain the full effect.

Eating cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and sprouts, is linked to reduced rates of lung cancer in some cases, but the reason has been unclear.

Researchers now believe that two genes which normally protect the body against certain toxins may be responsible.

Cabbage-like vegetables are rich in chemicals called isothiocyanates, which strongly protect against lung cancer.

Normally, isothiocyanates are eliminated from the body by "clean-up" enzymes produced by the genes GSTM1 and GSTT1.

The new research shows that people with inactive forms of these genes are most likely to be shielded from lung cancer by the isothiocyanates in cruciferous vegetables.

A team led by Dr Paul Brennan, from the International Agency for Cancer Research, based in Lyon, France, looked at 2,141 patients with lung cancer and 2,168 matched healthy individuals.

DNA samples were taken from the volunteers, recruited from six countries in eastern and central Europe, and their diets monitored.

The research showed that consumption of cruciferous vegetables had around a third greater protective effect for those with one of the inactive genes.

But individuals who had inactive versions of both genes were 72 per cent protected.

Dr Brennan, whose findings appear in the medical journal The Lancet, said: "These data provide strong evidence for a substantial protective effect of cruciferous vegetables on lung cancer."