Sally Ride, the first female astronaut in America, passed away due to pancreatic cancer on Monday at the age of 61. Her death is a tragedy not just for those who loved her but for the many young people she inspired and helped educate through her science education company, Sally Ride Science.
Pancreatic is among the deadliest cancers, in part because symptoms usually don't appear until it's advanced. And unfortunately, little is known about how to prevent it. Smoking and being overweight or obese are two modifiable risk factors, but thin nonsmokers are diagnosed with the disease every day. This disease has also taken the lives of Steve Jobs, Michael Landon and Patrick Swayze, and of more than one family friend of mine (yours too, I'm sure).
So, any research that offers clues on prevention is worth noting, and a small study just published in the British medical journal Gut found that eating a diet high in the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium was associated with a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer. The study looked at the eating habits of more than 23,000 adults over 40 and found that those whose consumption of vitamin C, E and selenium (as food, not as supplements) was in the top 25% were 67% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those whose consumption was in the bottom 25%.
The researchers were quick to point out that this correlation does not equal causation—meaning that other factors could account for the antioxidant-eaters' reduced risk.
But, of course, since foods containing these nutrients are generally healthy in many other ways, take "possible pancreatic cancer prevention" as yet another incentive to eat well. Selenium-rich foods include seafood, meat, and Brazil nuts (and plant foods grown in selenium-rich soil). Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, red bell pepper and broccoli, and to boost vitamin E consumption you should eat more nuts, leafy greens and avocados.
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