The average teenager’s diet consists of pizza pockets, chips and French fries, but new research suggests that adolescent girls who ate more of certain fruits and vegetables had a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
A lot of the advice about keeping breast cancer at bay is doled out to adults, but this time around, Harvard School of Public Health doctors wanted to look at how fruit and vegetable consumption in adolescence and early adulthood affected cancer risk later on in life.
For their research, they followed 90,000 nurses over the course of two decades. They had to report their diet and lifestyle and they had to recall their eating habits from their adolescent years.
Turns out, the nurses who reported the highest fruit consumption during their adolescence – about three servings per day compared to a half serving – had a roughly 25 per cent lower risk of breast cancer diagnosis by middle age.
There were certain fruits that were “significantly associated” with a lower risk of breast cancer, too: apples, bananas and grapes were singled out for adolescent years followed by oranges and kale in early adulthood.
The scientists say they aren’t surprised by their findings – they align with cancer prevention advice to eat more fresh fare.
Their guess is that the fruits are packed with fibre and high in flavonoids – antioxidants that fight cell damage. Some of the produce is also high in vitamin C.
The study was published in the BMJ and adds to a collection of research on how eating habits and lifestyle tamper with risk of chronic disease.
Last month, for example, the American Institute for Cancer Research warned that too much drinking, processed meat and being overweight are tied to a string of cancers.
Read the latest findings.