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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 07:13 GMT
Scientists' anti-cancer recipes
Breast cancer cells
The database is aimed at protecting youngsters from developing cancer
A special website carrying anti-cancer recipes has been created by scientists at a Scottish university in a bid to cut cancer risks among teenagers.

The alphabetical database was created by Dr Margaret Ritchie from the School of Biology at St Andrews University.

It highlights foods that contain natural compounds known as phyto-oestrogens, which exist in wholemeal bread, soya, yoghurt and some fruits.

It aims to protect youngsters from developing breast and prostate cancer.

The database has been used in the University of Edinburgh's prostate cancer study and will be used in Scotland's largest breast cancer study undertaken by the University of Aberdeen.

'Cancer protection'

That study will specifically look at young women who tend to develop the most aggressive strain of the disease.

Dr Ritchie said: "Put simply, we're pinpointing foods which you can introduce to your diet - or that of your teenage son or daughter - so they can build up cancer protection in later life."

The database is the result of three years' work, based on intricate biology, chemistry and maths.

Studies in the past have shown that young women who consume relatively high levels (between 300 and 1500 micrograms per 100g) of phyto-oestrogens are far less likely to develop aggressive forms of breast cancer when they reach middle age.

Protective claims

Likewise, the compounds, which only exist in plants and vegetables, may also provide young men with protection against prostate cancer.

Dr Ritchie said: "It appears that they prevent the development of cells in the breast that are likely to become cancerous in later life.

"We have yet to establish the exact mechanism involved, but it seems clear that we are dealing with a very important class of compounds, one which is going to become increasingly important to our diets in coming years."

Dr Tim Key, of Cancer Research UK, said there was still work to be done to determine how effective the system is.

He said: "The possibility that high intakes of phyto-oestrogens might reduce the risk for some types of cancer is an interesting hypothesis, but so far the results of studies of this relationship in humans are not consistent, and no protective effect has been established."

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