According to researchers in the Netherlands, although eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables may reduce the risk of colon cancer for most people this is not the case with smokers.
Scientists at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) say they have found the reverse is true for smokers and a high intake of fruit and vegetables appears to increase a smoker's chance of developing colon cancer.
The Dutch team reached this conclusion after conducting a study where as many as 500,000 people in 10 European countries were questioned about their eating and smoking habits and monitored over a period of 8.5 years.
The new European study has surprisingly revealed that while people who eat 600 grammes or more vegetables and fruit a day appear to have up to 25% less chance of developing colon cancer than people who eat 220 grammes or less - for smokers, the consumption of vegetables and fruit appears to increase their chances of developing colon cancer.
The researchers say protection against colon cancer through the consumption of vegetables and fruit therefore appears to depend on smoking habits and the only conclusion which can be drawn is that smokers, rather than not eating fruit and vegetables, should instead - stop smoking!
According to the World Health Organisation colon cancer or colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers and causes of deaths worldwide and tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer - cancer accounts for over 7 million deaths worldwide each year of which 639 000 are from colorectal cancer.
The WHO says more than 30% of cancer could be prevented by modifying or avoiding key risk factors, and top of the list is tobacco use, followed by being overweight or obese and then low fruit and vegetable intake.
The study is reportedly the first to examine the effects of fruit and vegetable in smokers and non-smokers and the researchers say the findings show that substances within fruit and vegetables may even increase the carcinogenic potential of tobacco smoke.
The research is published in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition.