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AICR Food Facts  >  Foods That Fight Cancer

Cherries: Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation

This content was last updated on December 10, 2019

The Cancer Research

Cherries are among foods highest in melatonin, which shows cancer-preventive potential in laboratory studies. Limited human research on cherries as a source of melatonin has investigated the potential to improve sleep, but little is known about whether eating melatonin-rich cherries contributes to cancer prevention.

Interpreting the data

After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF analyzed how fruits and their nutrients affect the risk of developing cancer.

  • Evidence categorized as “convincing” or “probable” means there is strong research showing a causal relationship to cancer—either decreasing or increasing the risk. The research must include quality human studies that meet specific criteria and biological explanations for the findings.
  • A  convincing or probable judgment is strong enough to justify recommendations.
  • There is probable evidence that foods with dietary fiber DECREASE the risk of:
    • Colorectal cancer
  • There is probable evidence that fruit and non-starchy vegetables combined DECREASE the risk of:
    • cancers of the aerodigestive tract (mouth, pharynx, nasopharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers)
  • Evidence categorized as “limited suggestive” means results are generally consistent in overall conclusions, but it’s rarely strong enough to justify recommendations to reduce risk of cancer.

Limited evidence suggests that fruits may DECREASE the risk of:

  • Lung cancer (in people who smoke or used to smoke tobacco) and squamous cell esophageal cancer

Limited evidence suggests that foods containing vitamin C may DECREASE the risk of:

  • Lung cancer (in people who smoke) and colon cancer

 

 

Source: AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

Ongoing Areas of Investigation

  • Tips for Selection, Storage and Preparation
    Selection:
    • Cherries can be classified as sweet or tart. Sweet cherries are the most popular for eating raw, although you can use them for cooking.
    • When purchasing fresh, select firm, glossy, plump cherries with stems attached. The darker they are; the riper. Avoid shriveled or bruised fruits.
    • You’ll find it easier to cut dried cherries if you oil your knife or kitchen scissors beforehand.
    Storage:
    • Refrigerate unwashed cherries for up to ten days in a plastic bag. Or to minimize bruising, spread a single layer on a shallow pan and cover with plastic wrap.
    • Check occasionally and remove any that have gone bad before they cause others to spoil.
    Preparation Ideas:
    • For cooking, pit cherries either by hand (pull with your forefinger and thumb or push with a chopstick) or with a pitter.
    • You can poach cherries (great for sauces) by dropping them into simmering water and cooking for 1 to 3 minutes until soft. Use 2:1 ratio cherries to water: If you have 2 cups of cherries, use 1 cup of water.
    • Dried cherries are delicious in salads and hot or cold cereal. You can also add dried cherries to baked goods like muffins and cookies to keep them moist.
    • Keep a bag of cherries in the freezer and add to oatmeal while it cooks, or layer with yogurt and granola for a quick breakfast.
    • Add cherry juice and whole cherries to sparkling water for a cooling summer beverage.

References

  1. Duthie SJ. Berry phytochemicals, genomic stability and cancer: Evidence for chemoprotection at several stages in the carcinogenic process. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007;51(6):665-674.
  2. de Sousa Moraes LF, Sun X, Peluzio MdCG, Zhu M-J. Anthocyanins/anthocyanidins and colorectal cancer: What is behind the scenes? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(1):59-71.
  3. Del Rio D, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Spencer JP, Tognolini M, Borges G, Crozier A. Dietary (poly)phenolics in human health: structures, bioavailability, and evidence of protective effects against chronic diseases. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013;18(14):1818-1892.
  4. Tajik N, Tajik M, Mack I, Enck P. The potential effects of chlorogenic acid, the main phenolic components in coffee, on health: a comprehensive review of the literature. Eur J Nutr. 2017;56(7):2215-2244.
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  7. Lu JM, Lin PH, Yao Q, Chen C. Chemical and molecular mechanisms of antioxidants: experimental approaches and model systems. Journal of cellular and molecular medicine. 2010;14(4):840–860.
  8. Talib WH. Melatonin and Cancer Hallmarks. Molecules. 2018;23(3):518.
  9. Reiter RJ, Rosales-Corral SA, Tan D-X, et al. Melatonin, a Full Service Anti-Cancer Agent: Inhibition of Initiation, Progression and Metastasis. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(4):843.
  10. Chen TC, Fonseca COD, Schönthal AH. Preclinical development and clinical use of perillyl alcohol for chemoprevention and cancer therapy. Am J Cancer Res. 2015;5(5):1580-1593.
  11. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Wholegrains, vegetables and fruit and the risk of cancer. Available at: dietandcancerreport.org.
  12. Aune D. Plant Foods, Antioxidant Biomarkers, and the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and Mortality: A Review of the Evidence. Advances in Nutrition. 2019;10(Supplement_4):S404-S421.
  13. Ma Y, Hu M, Zhou L, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risks of proximal and distal colon cancers: A meta-analysis. Medicine. 2018;97(36):e11678.
  14. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Diet, nutrition, physical activity and colorectal cancer. Available at: dietandcancerreport.org.
  15. Aune D, Chan DS, Greenwood DC, et al. Dietary fiber and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Ann Oncol. 2012;23(6):1394-1402.
  16. Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Dietary intake and blood concentrations of antioxidants and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;108(5):1069-1091.
  17. Cassidy A, Rogers G, Peterson JJ, Dwyer JT, Lin H, Jacques PF. Higher dietary anthocyanin and flavonol intakes are associated with anti-inflammatory effects in a population of US adults1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(1):172-181.
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