There seems to be no question that smoking is a risk factor for the development of many types of cancer. This includes cancers of the mouth, tongue, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, cervix, uterus, pancreas, kidney, and urinary bladder. Smokeless tobacco also seems to carry an increased risk for these same cancers, especially those of the oral cavity.
A fact that has been less well publicized is the role dietary habits and nutrition contribute to the risk of cancer in smokers. One of the more well-known studies to demonstrate this is the so-called beta carotene study. It is known that deficiencies of anti-oxidants contribute to an increased risk of developing certain cancers, and it was postulated that a deficiency of beta carotene, an anti-oxidant, was involved in the development of lung cancer in smokers. The beta carotene study was launched to investigate if supplementing smokers with beta carotene would decrease the risk of developing lung cancer. As it turned out, the study had to be terminated early due to the finding that the group receiving supplementation with beta carotene had a higher rate of lung cancer than the control. The mechanism for this increase is now thought to be due to the oxidizing effect and generation of free radicals by beta carotene in the lungs of smokers. These free radicals, then, if left unchecked, contribute to the development of lung cancer. This has lead to the now widely-accepted recommendation that free radicals are best taken as multiples rather than singly. It is also felt that, for beta carotene o have its protective effect, it must be provided in the diet along with the other 600 mixed carotenoids found in food, and leads to the advice that the preferred source of anti-oxidants is dietary.
Another link on the diet-smoking-cancer connection is the association that smokers with a high intake of fats in the diet have an increased risk of certain cancers, such as cancer of the colon.
Several dietary ingredients have been associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer. This would include selenium, green tea, curcumin, garlic, and the isothyocyanates. Vegetables, especially the cruciferous vegetables, contain anti-oxidants and other substances thought to lower the risk of certain cancers. The cruciferous vegetables include brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Watercress contains a chemical known as Indole-3-Carbinol, felt to be associated with a lower risk of certain cancers.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may decrease risk of lung cancer, but this benefit needs to be evaluated in light of their side effects that include ulcers, liver and kidney damage, and a possible increase in osteoarthritis.
If you smoke, we hope you find this information helpful. Having said this, we should emphasize that the best way to minimize your risk of smoking related malignancies is not through dietary changes or supplements, but through smoking cessation. The staff at Nature’s Healthcare is experienced in smoking cessation, and we would welcome the opportunity to help you in this regard.