Cancer-fighting food database goes on-line

Thursday 18 March 2004

Foods which could prevent teenagers from developing cancer are being highlighted by a unique website created by a University of St Andrews scientist.

Dr Margaret Ritchie from the Bute Medical School has devised the world’s first fully-tested alphabetical database, aimed at protecting youngsters from developing breast and prostate cancers in later life.

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, which 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 mathematics. Dr Ritchie also worked with 14 volunteers – male and female, and of varied ages.

The foods listed contain natural compounds known as phyto- oestrogens which exist in high levels (300-1500 micrograms per 100g) in wholemeal bread, soya, yoghurt, raisins and other fruit. Studies have shown that teenagers and young adults who consume relatively high levels of phyto- oestrogens are far less likely to develop aggressive forms of breast cancer when they reach middle age. Likewise, the compounds, which only exist in plants and vegetables, may also provide young men with protection against prostate cancer.

Dr Ritchie explained, “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”.

In addition to the general public, the dababase is aimed at researchers working in the areas of public health, nutrition, chemistry, plant chemistry/biochemistry, medicine, phytotherapy and oncology with specific interests in the role of plant chemicals and their role in disease prevention and treatment. It will be also be used in collaborative studies involving the University of St Andrews.


Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews

For more information – AND TO OBTAIN THE USER NAME/PASSWORD FOR THE DATABASE – please contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or [email protected]

Margaret Ritchie is also available today (Thursday 18 March 2004) – 01334 463605 or 07711 810 162

Ref: press releases/cancerfood View the latest University news at

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