Research indicates estrogen is a key factor in 60-65% of breast cancer cases.
What a betrayal! It seems that our ďspecialĒ hormone . . . the one associated with womanhood . . . responsible for steering us through so many of lifeís cycles and stages Ė has turned against us.
But it gets worse . . . If estrogen plays a role in breast cancer, is it safe to consume foods like pomegranate that have plant estrogens or phytoestrogens?
Do these plant forms of estrogen increase our risk for breast cancer?
Well, in the case of the pomegranate Ė the answer is clear. No they donít.
In fact itís the opposite. Pomegranate can actually help fight off cancer. Over a dozen compounds in pomegranate have been associated with warding off cancer.
But even more intriguingly, these special plant estrogens found in pomegranate may help specifically in fighting estrogen positive cancer.
The Journal of Natural Biochemistry just published initial but tantalizing research conducted by a team from The Integrated Cancer Research Program at the Rajiv Gandhi Center for Biotechnology in India.
In this study, the researchers administered pomegranate peel extract to several different breast cancer cell lines in petri dishes. For comparisonís sake they also treated the same cell lines with 17β- estradiol, the form of estrogen produced by your body thatís associated with breast cancer. And they treated the same cell lines with ICI, an anti-estrogen compound often used to treat estrogen positive breast cancer in conventional medicine.
The results were telling:
When the cells were hit with 320 μg/ml of pomegranate peel extract, only about 30% of the cancer cells survived. This is in contrast to the cells treated with the more standard anti-estrogen drug, ICI. One hundred μg/ml of ICI still allowed close to 60% (two times the number!) of breast cancer cells to survive.
But hereís where pomegranate really stands out when it comes to contending with estrogen positive breast cancer. . .
They also applied the pomegranate peel extract to cell lines that had been given a dose of the 17β- estradiol. (Remember? The estrogen in your body associated with promoting breast cancer?)
Pomegranate peel extract cut the number of cancerous cells down by half Ė even when they were souped up on this powerful form of estrogen, estradiol.
Itís important to note that while research using other pomegranate extracts have shown positive effects in slowing a wide variety of cancers, in this study, the same dramatic results were not observed with cancer cell lines that were not associated with estrogen positive breast cancer.
As the researchers point out, many plant forms of estrogens act as whatís called a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM).
Essentially, this means that they fit into the estrogen receptor spot on cells. But unlike strong estrogens like 17β-estradiol, they donít spark any response from the cell.
And because they occupy this receptor spot, the more powerful estradiol canít slip in and trigger the receptor.
- You can learn more about how weaker, plant-based estrogens can help counter the negative effects of stronger estrogens in this article on hormonal balance.
Now of course, this research is preliminary. It hasnít even made it to the animal testing level yet, let alone a clinical trial.
Itís a big step to move from test tube to human body.
Nonetheless, the results are promising . . . And so comforting as well.
There are plenty of things to fear when it comes to your risk for breast cancer.
Now you know the pomegranate (and its forms of natural estrogen) isnít one of them.
Sreeja et al. Pomegranate extract demonstrate a selective estrogen receptor modulator profile in human tumor cell lines and in vivo models of estrogen deprivation. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. August 10, 2011. [Epub ehead of print]