Italian scientists say eating pizza may ward off cancer

July 20, 2003

MILAN, Italy -- Italian scientists believe that eating pizza once a week can protect against some cancers.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, a study of 8,000 people found that those consuming pizza one or more times a week were several times less likely to get cancers of the mouth, esophagus and colon than those who chose other meals.

Some suspect that tomato sauce is key to the study's results since tomatoes are high in lycopene, which is believed to fight prostate cancer.

Silvano Gallus, who led the research at the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, is not ruling out the curative properties of pizza as a whole.

"We knew that tomato sauce could offer protection against certain tumors, but we did not expect pizza as a complete meal also to offer such protective powers," he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Some Australian cancer specialists aren't as convinced as Gallus about pizza's curative powers.

"(W)ith this research, the devil is in the detail," said Terry Slevin, chair of the Cancer Council's Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee. "If you are heavily adding meat and cheese to your pizza and eating pizza regularly, you risk obesity, which itself is linked to cancer."

Slevin did say Italian food prepared healthfully is helpful in fighting cancer.

"Pasta with tomato sauce and vegetables is a great feed, as is dough based pizza with tomato sauce, a light sprinkling of cheese and fresh vegetables," he said.

Pizza and pasta may be healthy in moderation, but it still should not make up one's entire diet, said Charles Such, manager of nutrition services at St. Vincent's Hospital.

"Having a pizza and sitting around watching television is not going to do anything for cancer prevention," Such said. "Neither will making takeaway food a staple. You should ensure you are eating a majority of fresh, healthy homemade meals."

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