Pomegranates may help prevent breast cancerInhibit cancer cell growth
Eating pomegranates could help reduce the risk of hormone dependent breast cancer, a new study has found.
US scientists say that some fruits such as pomegranates contain naturally occurring "phytochemicals" which can suppress the growth of breast cancer cells grown in the lab.
Some types of breast cancer cells require the female hormone oestrogen to grow.
In the study, the researchers found that a type of phytochemical known as ellagic acid "significantly inhibited" the growth of this type of breast cancer cell by blocking oestrogen production.
"Phytochemicals suppress oestrogen production that prevents the proliferation of breast cancer cells and the growth of oestrogen-responsive tumours," said Dr. Shiuan Chen from the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, California.
Ellagic acid found in pomegranates inhibits aromatase, a compound needed to make oestrogen which also plays a key role in the development of breast cancer.
"We were surprised by our findings," said Dr. Chen. "We previously found other fruits, such as grapes, to be capable of the inhibition of aromatase. But, phytochemicals in pomegranates and in grapes are different."
However, Professor Gary Stoner from Ohio State University said that relatively high levels of the anti-cancer compounds were needed to suppress the growth of breast cancer cells in the lab.
"It's not clear that these levels could be achieved in animals or in humans because the ellagitannins are not well absorbed into blood when provided in the diet," Dr Stoner said, adding that further research was needed.
Until then, people "might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development in the breast and perhaps in other tissues and organs."
The study is published is the journal Cancer Prevention Research.
This article was published on Tue 5 January 2010
Image © Sergey Galushko - Fotolia.com
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