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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Eating pizza 'cuts cancer risk'
Pizzas are covered with a potentially protective tomato sauce
Italian researchers say eating pizza could protect against cancer.

Researchers claim eating pizza regularly reduced the risk of developing oesophageal cancer by 59%.

The risk of developing colon cancer also fell by 26% and mouth cancer by 34%, they claimed.

The secret could be lycopene, an antioxidant chemical in tomatoes, which is thought to offer some protection against cancer, and which gives the fruit its traditional red colour.

Before people start dialling the pizza takeaway, they should consider that pizza can be high in saturated fat, salt and calories
Nicola O'Connor, Cancer Research UK
But some experts cast doubt on the idea that pizza consumption was the explanation for why some people did not develop cancer.

They said other foods or dietary habits could play a part.


The researchers looked at 3,300 people who had developed cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, throat or colon and 5,000 people who had not developed cancer.

They were asked about their eating habits, and how often they ate pizza.

Those who ate pizza at least once a week had less chance of developing cancer, they found.

Dr Silvano Gallus, of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmaceutical Research in Milan, who led the research: "We knew that tomato sauce could offer protection against certain tumours, but we did not expect pizza as a complete meal also to offer such protective powers."

Nicola O'Connor, of Cancer Research UK, told BBC News Online: "This study is interesting and the results should probably be looked at in the context of what we already know about the Mediterranean diet and it's association with a lower risk of certain types of cancer.

"But before people start dialling the pizza takeaway, they should consider that pizza can be high in saturated fat, salt and calories.

"In contrast to the classic Italian pizza, UK varieties are often loaded with high fat cheeses and fatty meats, a high intake of which can contribute to obesity, itself a risk factor for cancer.

"Our advice is to enjoy pizza in moderation as part of a balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruit."

Mediterranean diet

And Carlo La Vecchia, a Milan-based epidemiologist said pizza-lovers should not see the research as a licence to indulge their fondness for the food.

"There is nothing to indicate that pizza is the only thing responsible for these results."

He told AFP news agency: "Pizza could simply be indicative of a lifestyle and food habits, in other words the Italian version of a Mediterranean diet."

A Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, fibre, vegetables, fruit, flour and freshly cooked food - including non-frozen, home-made pizza.

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