Can strawberries stop esophageal cancer?

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(CBS) Call it berry good news for people facing cancer.

Preliminary research from China suggests that freeze-dried strawberries may help prevent esophageal cancer, a malignancy that kills about 15,000 Americans a year.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, held in Orlando, Fla. April 2-6.

Study author Dr. Tong Chen, assistant professor of internal medicine and a cancer researcher at Ohio State University, said in a written statement issued by the association, "Our preliminary data suggests that strawberries can decrease histological grade of precancerous lesions and reduce cancer-related molecular events."

Got that? That's a scientist's way of saying that the berries stop precancerous lesions in their tracks - before they have a chance to turn into life-threatening tumors.

For the study, 36 people with precancerous lesions of the esophagus ate freeze-dried strawberries every day for six months. (Why freeze-dried? Because they pack about 10 times the antioxidant wallop of fresh strawberries.) At the study's conclusion, the lesions had regressed in 29 of the 36 people being studied.

Time to start scarfing strawberries? Not yet. Dr. Chen said more research was needed to confirm her preliminary research, including a larger study involving healthy people as well as those at risks for cancer. And there are other, proven ways to limit your risk for esophageal cancer, including avoiding two well-established risk factors - smoking and drinking alcohol.

Click here for more on esophageal cancer, from the National Cancer Institute.

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