September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, providing an opportunity to reflect on ways to reduce your risk of developing these potentially deadly cancers. The most common of these is non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. With roughly 66,000 cases diagnosed each year, NHL afflicts about 1 in 5,000 Americans. Fortunately, new research suggests what you eat may play a role in protecting yourself against this disease.

A 20-year study by the Mayo Clinic compared incidence of NHL among 35,159 women (ages 55-69 at the start of the study) with their dietary patterns. 1% of the women (415) developed NHL. Dietary analysis revealed that those with the highest intakes of fruit and vegetables enjoyed a 30% reduced risk of the cancer. Among those specific nutrients associated with protective benefit, having a high intake (over 150% Daily Value) of manganese conferred a 28% lower risk of developing NHL. Top sources of manganese include wild blueberries, oats, pine nuts, brown rice, spinach and pineapple.

Fresh and frozen pineapple is the only source of the enzyme bromelain, which according to lab research may inhibit the growth of malignant cancer cells. High intakes of fruit and vegetables in general have also been associated with lower risk of pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer, and greater likelihood of  surviving ovarian cancer. Moreover, high produce consumption inversely correlates with obesity, which has been linked to nine types of cancer.

 Published September 1, 2011