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Health News Archive 56 - Breast Cancer (con't)
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Antioxidants From Tea, Beer & Wine Slow Breast Cancer Growth

Portugese researchers presenting at the April 2004 Experimental Biology meeting, in Washington, DC, have shown that the phenolic phytochemicals epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), xanthohumol, and resveratrol slow breast cancer growth in human cell cultures. The compounds are found in tea, beer, and wine respectively, a fact that appears to contradict the results of previous research that established an association between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer in women. However, the researchers caution that the findings of this study do not suggest that women increase alcohol consumption.

The research team from the Universidade do Porto, in Portugal, cultured breast cancer cells in the presence of varying concentrations of EGCG, xanthohumol and resveratrol for various periods of time. At the end of each treatment period the number of cells and the ratio between dead and live cells was calculated. In other experiments, 3H-thymidine incorporation was evaluated, which measured the effect of each treatment on DNA synthesis.

It was discovered that all of the compounds possessed an inhibitory effect on breast cancer cell growth, with xanthohumol eliciting an antiproliferative effect more rapidly and at a lower concentration than the other compounds. Although EGCG demonstrated the lowest potency of the compounds tested, it also showed the least cytotoxicity, meaning that it can be administered in higher doses. A decrease in 3H-thymidine incorporation was also observed in the presence of the phenolic compounds.

The authors conclude that the findings support epidemiological studies that relate consumption of specific beverages with a lesser incidence of cancer and that clinical studies are needed to support recommending the compounds as cancer preventives.

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Omega-3's Breast Cancer Protection Mechanism Explained

Researchers investigated the reasons why Omega-3 fatty acids appear to protect against breast cancer and found that these fish-oil derived substances enable two tumor suppressor genes to work efficiently.  These studies were reported in the March and April 2002 British Journal of Nutrition. 

The researchers found that omega-3 fats, found in the fish-oil derived EPA and DHA fatty acids, affect the tumor suppressor genes BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2). When functioning properly, these two tumor suppressor genes help repair DNA damage, warding off tumor development. However, in 1994, researchers discovered that mutations in these two genes are linked to a higher risk of developing both breast and ovarian cancer. Five percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women with BRCA1 mutations.

The researchers in the current study treated breast cell lines with both omega-6 and omega-3 fats, then observed the expression of BRCA1 and BRCA2. The Omega-3 fats DHA and EPA from fish oil together blocked increases in BRCA1 and BRCA2 while omega-6 fats did not.

Another recent study offered another suggestion as to how omega-3's protect against cancer. The researchers in this study found that omega-3 fats activate receptors that can influence breast cancer cell growth.

Sources: British Journal of Nutrition. April 2002; 87( 4): 281-289.
British Journal of Nutrition. March 2002; 87(3): 193-198.

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