In a country where there is the highest incidence of throat, or esophageal cancer, Chinese researchers have found that simple strawberries may be an affordable and commonly found prevention tool to stave off this deadly disease. Frozen berries are even better because by removing the water from the berries, the concentrate of the preventive substances increase by nearly tenfold.

Lead researcher Tong Chen, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, division of medical oncology, department of internal medicine at The Ohio State University and member of the Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program in The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center explains:

“We concluded from this study that six months of eating strawberries is safe and easy to consume. In addition, our preliminary data suggests that strawberries can decrease histological grade of precancerous lesions and reduce cancer-related molecular events.”

Study participants consumed 60 grams of freeze dried strawberries daily for six months and completed a dietary diary chronicling their strawberry consumption.

The researchers obtained biopsy specimens before and after strawberry consumption. The results showed that 29 out of 36 participants experienced a decrease in histological grade of the precancerous lesions during the study.

Chen continues:

“Our study is important because it shows that strawberries may slow the progression of precancerous lesion in the esophagus. Strawberries may be an alternative or work together with other chemopreventive drugs for the prevention of esophageal cancer. But, we will need to test this in randomized placebo-controlled trials in the future.”

If the cancer is diagnosed in its earliest stages, the patient’s chances of living and being cancer free five years after treatment is greatly improved. Unfortunately, most cases of esophageal cancer are only discovered when the patient comes to their doctor because of swallowing difficulty, which doesn’t happen until later stages of the cancer growth. The prognosis then is very poor.

Esophageal cancer is a relatively rare form of cancer, but some world areas have a markedly higher incidence than others: Belgium, China, Iran, Iceland, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, appear to have a higher incidence, as well as the region around the Caspian Sea. The American Cancer Society estimates that during 2011, approximately 16,000 new esophageal cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States.

Since the 1960s, Chinese researchers at the Cancer Institute, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, have been tracing the environmental factors that cause esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths in the world. About 250,000 esophageal cancer cases are diagnosed each year in China, accounting for half of the world’s total.

Once diagnosed, survival rates for esophageal cancer are poor: 75% of patients die within one year, and the five-year survival rate is only 5% to 10%.

Esophageal cancer occurs more often in specific regions. Most victims live in the “esophageal cancer belt,” which stretches from the central part of North China westward through Central Asia to northern Iran.

In China, esophageal cancer occurs mainly in areas south of the Taihang Mountains on the borders of three provinces Henan, Shanxi and Hebei.

Sources: Press Release and China Daily

Written by Sy Kraft, B.A.