Strawberries have the potential to prevent esophageal cancer, according to a preliminary study released Wednesday.
Researchers, led by Ohio State University, were able to show that freeze-dried strawberries slowed the growth of dysplastic, or precancerous, lesions in about 30 people who consumed the fruit for six months.
The study’s lead researcher, Tong Chen, an assistant professor in the oncology division of Ohio State University, presented the study at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting.
Esophageal cancer is the third most common gastrointestinal cancer and the sixth most frequent cause of cancer death in the world, Dr. Chen said. About 16,000 new cases of esophageal cancer a year are diagnosed in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Chen and a group of researchers are studying esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, the dominant type of esophageal cancer world-wide. They are looking at whether food or other substances might prevent cancer. Previous work showed that freeze-dried strawberries were able to significantly inhibit tumor development in rats.
The research team designed a small study in humans and approached the California Strawberry Commission, which agreed to fund the study and make available the freeze-dried strawberries. The commission is a state agency funded by the strawberry industry.
Dr. Chen’s team recruited 38 people in China who had mild-to-moderate dysplasia in the esophagus; 36 people completed the study. Biopsies of the esophagus were taken before and after the study. On average, patients were about 55 years old.