Red-skinned fruit and vegetables might help prevent breast and prostate cancers, and could possibly also help patients who already have the disease. Red-skinned vegetables and fruits have long been associated with lower cancer rates.
Researchers in Singapore this week said that the same foods that help prevent cancers might also be able to treat breast and prostate cancer.
Huynh The Hung, a cancer researcher at Singapore's National Cancer Center who conducted experiments on mice implanted with breast and prostate tumors, said that when these mice were fed phyto-chemicals, which are found in red-skinned fruits and vegetables, their tumors began to shrink.
"Red chili, red apple, the ones that have red skin, they have the anti-proliferation effect on the breast cancer," said Dr. Huynh. "However, the amount we eat may not be sufficient, probably in Asia we eat a little bit more green vegetables."
He says the phyto-chemicals work by ending the cancer cells' ability to redirect nutrients from healthy cells.
Dr. Huynh hopes the phyto-chemicals may one day be used in combination with or possibly even in the place of other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation.
"When it goes together with certain chemotherapeutic drugs - that will enhance the potency of the chemotherapeutic drugs," he said.
He noted most cancer treatments now have unpleasant side effects including pain, weakness, nausea and hair loss.
The new findings on phyto-chemicals will be published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology in September.
Dr. Huynh says he hopes further experiments will find phyto-chemicals to have similar effects on other types of cancer.
Globally, more than 10 million people are diagnosed with various types of cancer each year, and more than six million die from it.