One of my favorite parts of late summer and early autumn is biting into a tree-ripened peach straight from the farmers market (or even better, the tree!) and enjoying it while hanging over the sink. Why the sink? Because a great peach is so juicy when it's ripe that it will probably run down your chin, making a mess. Making cleanup easy is imperative. 

I have enjoyed my fair share of stone fruits this year, and I'm glad I indulged — those Jersey peaches are impossible to resist anyway. Even though the season's almost over (on the East Coast, we may have another week left), you might want to stock up on peaches and plums, especially if you're a woman. A recent study at Texas A&M University revealed that peaches and plums likely contain compounds to fight breast cancer. "According to research scientists Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and Dr. David Byrne from AgriLife Research at Texas A&M, extracts found in commercial varieties of peaches and plums have been shown to kill breast cancer cells while not harming normal cells," according to a press release from the university.

Not only have researchers found a great potential breast cancer foe, but it's delicious foe, too. According to the study, "Phenols are organic compounds that occur in fruits and may affect traits such as aroma, taste or color. Stone fruits such as peaches and plums have especially high levels of phenols." These phenols were tested on breast-cancer cells in the lab. When researchers saw positive results, they tested them on mice. The phenols were also able to kill the cancer cells in the mice, a promising discovery. They have not yet run any human clinical trials. 

Is the potential for cancer-fighting phenols as strong in frozen or processed fruit? I was thinking that maybe I should freeze fresh peaches now to use in smoothies this winter, so I asked lead researcher, Cisneros-Zevallos. He said they had only tested fresh fruit, so he wasn't sure, but that processes that preserve the beneficial compounds (like freezing) were likely to be better than those that don't. I remember the advice my grandma gave me about the skin of fruits and veggies being the healthiest part, so I inquired if it was true — since some people peel their peaches to get rid of the fuzzy stuff. The answer: "The phenolic compounds are distributed in both the skin and flesh, so its better to consume the whole fruit."

There's plenty of research that still needs to be done, according to the scientists. "The exact mechanism for cancer fighting isn't known. ... In the case of our cell studies it induced apoptosis or the known programmed cell death in the cancer cells. On the other hand in the animal studies, it showed inhibition of metastasis, which is the case when cancer cells initiate invasion to other organs of the body."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that we all eat more fruits and veggies (their handy calculator will help you figure out exactly how many servings to help avoid chronic diseases outside of breast cancer), even while fruit and veggie consumption is down, according to the NYTimes. Adding frozen peaches to your morning smoothie (or making a quick fruit tart for dessert), packing dried peaches and prunes for lunch, or grabbing a piece of fresh fruit instead of a granola bar, will all help you get your roughage. Eat a whole food rather than a processed one, and maybe you'll keep cancer at bay, too. 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Peaches, plums potentially able to kill breast cancer cells
Summer, early Fall's yummiest fruits could be a boon for women's health