Eating food which contain vitamins C, E and selenium could reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
People who have larger amounts of the antioxidants are 67 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who take in lower amounts, according to scientists at Britain's University of East Anglia.
Researchers suggest that if the link turns out to be causal, one in 12 cases of pancreatic cancer might be prevented.
The study, published online in the journal Gut, examined data from almost 24,000 men and women aged between 40 and 74.
The participants, who were taking part in the Norfolk branch of the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) study, completed comprehensive food diaries for seven days.
Researchers examined the nutrient intakes of those who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and those of almost 4,000 controls using a specially diagnosed computer program.
Within 10 years of entering the study 49 people developed pancreatic cancer. On average, the patients survived five months after diagnosis.
Researchers found that for those who took the highest amount of selenium in a week - within the top 25 per cent - their risk of pancreatic cancer was halved compared with those whose intake was in the bottom 25 per cent.
And those whose vitamins C, E, and selenium intake was in the top 25 per cent of consumption were 67 per cent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who were in the bottom 25 per cent.
"If a causal association is confirmed by reporting consistent findings from other epidemiological studies, then population based dietary recommendations may help to prevent pancreatic cancer," the authors said.
Selenium is present in cereals, nuts, fish and meat. Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, margarine and egg yolk and vitamin C is in fruits and vegetables.
Researchers say that other trials using antioxidant supplements have not produced such encouraging results, but this may be because food sources of these nutrients may behave differently from those found in supplements.
Pancreatic cancer and it is the sixth commonest cause of cancer death.
Survival rates are the worst for any tumour. Only one in six patients survive beyond one year.
Genes, smoking and type 2 diabetes are all risk factors, but diet is also thought to have a role.