WASHINGTON, April 19 (UPI) -- An extract from watercress reduced the effects of carcinogens in smokers, lowering their risk for developing lung cancer, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found daily supplements of the extract reduced the activation of nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone, and increased detoxification of benzene and acrolein, all of which lowers the risk for lung cancer.
The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggests the increased risk for lung cancer caused by smoking cigarettes can be lowered or mitigated with extract.
Although studies have shown the number of smokers in the United States is at an all-time low, smokers still have a far greater risk of lung cancer than non-smokers because of the chemicals they expose themselves to.
"Cigarette smokers are at far greater risk than the general public for developing lung cancer, and helping smokers quit should be our top cancer prevention priority in these people," Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, associate director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Control and Population Science, said in a press release.
For the study, researchers recruited 82 smokers and randomly treated them with 10 milligrams of watercress extract and 1 milliliter of olive oil for times a day for a week or a placebo. The groups were then swapped, with the placebo group receiving watercress extract and the other group now receiving a placebo. All of the participants were asked to continue smoking as much as normal.
In smokers given watercress extract for a week, nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone activated was reduced by 7.7 percent, while the detoxification of benzene increased by 24.6 percent and acrolein by 15.1 percent.
For participants missing genes that remove the carcinogens and toxicants from the body, the effect was even bigger, the researchers reported.
"Nicotine is very addictive, and quitting can take time and multiple relapses," Yuan said. "Having a tolerable, nontoxic treatment, like watercress extract, that can protect smokers against cancer would be an incredibly valuable tool in our cancer-fighting arsenal."