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Protection against cancer may begin during pregnancy

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- There may be another reason for pregnant and nursing women to eat a nutritious diet that includes generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage it could help protect their children from cancer, both as infants and later in life.

A new study by scientists from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, done with laboratory mice, found that supplements of a key phytochemical found in certain vegetables provided a very high level of protection against leukemia and lymphoma in young animals, and also significantly protected against lung cancer during the rodent's equivalent of middle age.

The research, published in the journal Carcinogenesis, is one of the first of its type to demonstrate that diet may play a protective role in a fight against cancer that may begin and could be won or lost well before a person is ever born. And some of the protective benefits may last into adulthood.

"Research of this type is still in its infancy, but it's pretty exciting," said David Williams, an LPI researcher and director of the Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center at OSU.

"There's strong epidemiologic evidence that infant cancers can be caused by exposure of the fetus to carcinogens, either during pregnancy or by nursing," Williams said. "Among all childhood deaths in the U.S., cancer is second only to accidents as the leading cause, and the fetus and neonate are sensitive targets for toxic carcinogens. It would be important if we could affect this through maternal diet."

There are particular concerns about common environmental pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, which can be produced by cigarette smoking or the combustion of organic materials such as wood, coal, cooking oil or diesel fuel. Exposure of a fetus to PAHs has been shown to cause DNA damage in newborns and is also associated with increased levels of childhood leukemia. It has also been shown t
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Contact: David Williams
david.williams@oregonstate.edu
541-737-3277
Oregon State University
21-Dec-2006


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