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There aren't many foods that help prevent cancer even if you just eat one serving a month. Carrots, however, are one of those foods.

Alternative health gurus are always giving us advice on how to use food to prevent lung cancer. One expert will tell us that what we really need to do is to take green coffee enemas. (I absolutely don't recommend this, by the way.)

Another expert will tell us that we need to avoid all red meat, animal fat, and margarine. I'd say that is a better idea, but not absolutely necessary. Yet another alternative health expert will tell smokers that they will lower their risk of an eventual diagnosis with lung cancer by becoming raw foods vegans.

I have a different suggestion, one that I have been making for several years and recently repeated on Steady Health Radio.

Eat a carrot now and then, at least once a month, even better, once a week. But no more often than twice a week.

What Is the Evidence for Carrots Reducing the Risk of Lung Cancer?

Carrots really do reduce the risk of a particularly aggressive kind of lung cancer known as mesothelioma, when they are consumed in moderation.

In the 1990's, the Diet and Mesothelioma Task Force, comprised of researchers from Louisiana State University and the (US) National Cancer Institute, set out to identify nutritional factors that might protect shipyard workers, demoliton experts, roofers, glass plant workers, pipefitters, boilermakers, and sugar plantation workers from this particularly deadly form of lung cancer, which is most often triggered by long-term exposure to asbestos. They did a case control study of 58 people who had mesothelioma, compared to 58 people who had similar exposure to asbestos and similar tobacco use habits but had escaped the disease.

Of all the nutritional factors that seem to prevent mesothelioma lung cancer, none stands out more than the consumption of carrots. In the Louisiana study, eating just one serving of carrots per month was enough to lower the risk of mesothelioma by 30 to 80%. Eating carrots every week lowered the risk of mesothelioma, too.

Eating carrots more than seven times a month, however, canceled out the benefits of eating any carrots at all. And for every other kind of vegetable the researchers studied, including cabbage, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and tomato juice, and cantaloupe, and also for the consumption of red meat, it was impossible to tell whether eating more of the food actually lowered the risk of mesothelioma or raised it.

A Carrot a Day Doesn't Keep the Oncologist Away

There is something about carrots that prevents mesothelioma as long as it is consumed in small doses. The beneficial carrot chemical isn't beta-carotene. The data showed it was possible that beta-carotene actually increased the risk of mesothelioma. And it wasn't vitamin A, either. In the study, the asbestos workers who had the lowest bloodstream concentrations of vitamin A had the lowest risk of mesothelioma.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Muscat JE, Huncharek M. Dietary intake and the risk of malignant mesothelioma. Br J Cancer. 1996 May.73(9):1122-5
  • Takezaki T, Hirose K, Inoue M, Hamajima N, Yatabe Y, Mitsudomi T, Sugiura T, Kuroishi T, Tajima K. Dietary factors and lung cancer risk in Japanese: with special reference to fish consumption and adenocarcinomas. Br J Cancer. 2001 May 4. 84(9):1199-206.
  • Ying J, Rahbar MH, Hallman DM, Hernandez LM, Spitz MR, Forman MR, Gorlova OY. Associations between dietary intake of choline and betaine and lung cancer risk. PLoS One. 2013.8(2):e54561. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054561. Epub 2013 Feb 1. PMID: 23383301.
  • Photo courtesy of cookbookman17 by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/cookbookman/6093275016/
  • Photo courtesy of Conrad and Peter by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/conradpeter/9670913535/