There’s juicy news to celebrate during this October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month: In laboratory studies, peach and plum extracts selectively target and kill aggressive breast cancer cells.As opposed to chemotherapy — which attacks all cells indiscriminately — the fruit phenolics may leave healthy cells alone, raising the prospect that such naturally derived anti-carcinogens could someday be part of an effective yet gentler, cancer treatment.

The lab results, published recently in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, showed the effects of treating both normal and cancer cells with extracts from two commercial peach and plum varieties.Scientists pinpoint two particular phytochemicals — chlorogenic and neochlorogenic acid — as most likely responsible for the beneficial effect. Previous findings suggest these compounds (also found in cherries, apples and blueberries) may also block the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines during digestion and reduce the risk of liver cancer. Indeed, lab studies indicate that chlorogenic acid may actually benefit healthy cells: Indian researchers found that the chlorogenic acid concentrated in potato peels appears to protect red blood cells from free-radical damage.

Such findings further demonstrate the strong role diet might play in both reducing breast cancer risk and combating the disease. In the lab, broccoli compounds zero in on breast cancer stem cells — while juiced cauliflower was found to suppress breast cancer cell growth. It’s possible that tripling cabbage intake could be linked to a 66% lower risk of developing breast cancer. A plant-based diet also helps with weight management — a key factor reducing breast cancer risk. This may be why exercising at least six hours a week could contribute to lowering breast cancer risk by 27%.
Bonus: Eating plenty of plums and peaches, nectarines and apricots also may lower the risk of head and neck cancer, according to a National Cancer Institute study.
Published October 1, 2010