Diet is an important area of intervention for primary cancer prevention. Epidemiological studies strongly suggest that high intake of food rich in beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, zinc, copper and iron decrease the risk of some cancers.
Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that have potential to harm cells. Free radicals can be hazardous and damage cells, including DNA, proteins, cell membranes. These factors play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.
Antioxidants or “free radical scavengers” are chemicals that interact with and neutralize free radicals, thus preventing from damage. Fruits, vegetables, and grains are rich sources of dietary antioxidants.
Vitamin E or tocopherol occurs widely in nature and is a intracellular antioxidant that protects polyunsaturated fatty acids (component of cell membranes) and prevents the formation of carcinogens from cancer causing compounds. Lycopene is the most effective singlet-oxygen quenchers, it helps in destruction of free radicals. Increase intake of lycopene has reduced the risk of oral, breast, cervix, pancreas, colon, lung cancers. Vitamin A and C, folic acid have protective role at the molecular level in cancer development. Dietary deficiencies of antioxidant are known risk factors in the pathogenesis of cancer to stop further development.
BETA CAROTENE – Green leafy vegetables, ripe yellow fruits and vegetables like papaya, musk melon, mango, pumpkin, carrots.
VITAMIN C – Citrus fruits like orange, lemon and sweet lime, guava, goose berry, sprouted pulses.
VITAMIN E – Cereals, cereal products, oil seeds, nuts.
SELENIUM, ZINC – Sea foods and cereals.
COPPER – Oysters, liver, mushroom, nuts.
IRON – Green leafy vegetables, cereals millet, pulses, green peas, soy bean, Bengal gram dhal., garden cress seeds.
LYCOPENE – Tomatoes, guava, dried apricots.