Common foods reduce cancer risk

Two common ingredients found in many types of cuisine may be key to reducing the risk of one of the most aggressive types of cancers across the globe, say a team of researchers from the Universities of Buffalo and Puerto Rico

Eating garlic and onion daily may significantly reduce your risk of developing breast cancer – the second most common cancer in general, representing about 12 per cent of all new cancer cases and the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women worldwide.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, focused on the use of plant-based foods in combatting cancer and breast cancer in particular.

The researchers found that the combined consumption of onion and garlic more than once per day reduced the risk of breast cancer by 67 per cent compared to those who never consumed those ingredients.

The study focused on women in Puerto Rico, where the consumption of garlic, onion and sofritoa dish consisting of finely chopped green, red, and yellow bell peppers, red onions, garlic, ground oregano, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, water, and cilantro – is commonplace. Interestingly, Puerto Rico has lower breast cancer rates compared to the US. This study highlights a possible reason why.

“There is very little research on breast cancer in Puerto Rico,” said study co-author Jo Freudenheim, PhD. “This study was a collaboration between my colleagues here at UB and at the University of Puerto Rico to help us understand why rates there are lower than in the rest of the US, and why rates there are continuing to increase while they are decreasing in the rest of the US.”

Researchers identified primary breast cancer cases among women aged between 30 and 79, collected data from clinic and hospital records, and then estimated food intake through a food frequency questionnaire, where total onion and garlic intake was taken into consideration.

Results show that high onion and garlic consumption has protective properties against breast cancer.


Onions and garlic are high in organosulfur compounds and flavonoids, known to have antioxidant properties. Garlic contains potent compounds such as diallyl disulphide, diallyl sulphide and S-allylcysteine, while onions contain sulphoxides and alk(en)yl cysteine. All are compounds proven to have anti-cancer properties.

Flavonoids have gained immense importance and attention as anti-cancer agents, showing great potential as anti-cancer compounds and antioxidants with immune system benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Diets rich in flavonoids are linked to preventing cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative conditions.

Organosulfur compounds found in garlic possess beneficial effects for many types of cancers, such as breast cancer, stomach cancer and colorectal cancer.

Onion and garlic are already common ingredients in many global cuisines, so this study is good news for those who are fond of eating these flavoursome vegetables.

Do you eat a lot of garlic and onion? If not, will you now include more in your daily diet?

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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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