“Eat your vegetables” could be a matter of life or death for breast cancer survivors, according to a new study by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Researchers found that breast cancer survivors who eat more cruciferous vegetables — like bok choy, broccoli, turnips, kale and Brussels sprouts — seem to have noticeably better survival rates than those who don’t.


The team examined the role of these vegetables among women in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study, a brilliant prospective study of 4,886 Chinese breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed with breast cancer from 2002 to 2006.


After adjusting for demographics, clinical characteristics and lifestyle factors, the scientists discovered that eating cruciferous vegetable during the first three years after diagnosis was linked to a reduced risk for total mortality, breast cancer-specific mortality and recurrence of the disease.


In addition, the more cruciferous vegetables the women ate, the more their risk of death or cancer recurrence decreased.


Women who consumed the most vegetables per day had a 62 percent reduced risk of total mortality, 62 percent reduced risk of breast cancer mortality, and 35 percent reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence, compared to women who ate the lowest amount of the vegetables.


What’s the magic? Cruciferous vegetables contain phytochemicals known as isothiocyanates and indoles, which seem to be the superpower ingredients against some types of cancer.


The study was presented by postdoctoral fellow Sarah J. Nechuta, Ph.D., M.P.H., at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting in Chicago, Ill.


Said Nechuta, “there is a need for future studies that measure the bioactive compounds in these vegetables and the host factors that may influence the effects of these compounds to improve the understanding of the association between cruciferous vegetable consumption and breast cancer outcomes.”


Until then, make sure to eat your vegetables. Need help? Try these recipes:

Breast cancer: Bok choy and broccoli may help survival
Farmer's market versus pharmacy? A new study shows a strong link between cancer survival rates and increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables.