Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mushrooms & breast cancer

Good news if you don’t smoke

If you don’t smoke, then the most likely cancer you will get is either breast or prostate cancer, with 3000 Australians dying every year of each one. For comparison, about 7,500 people die of lung cancer annually.

Mushrooms good to breasts
Last month there was a report in the International Journal of Cancer from the University of Western Australia. Researchers, led by Dr Min Zhang, studied 1000 Chinese women with breast cancer and compared them to 1000 control women without cancer. Their findings reveal that those women who consumed the most fresh mushrooms were **around two-thirds less likely to develop breast cancer** in comparison to those that didn’t eat mushrooms. There was a further risk reduction if they also drank about a cup of green tea each day too.

You might be thinking that the women were eating exotic mushrooms you rarely see in the supermarket. Not so. The most common mushroom consumed was the button mushroom we all enjoy, and less than one small mushroom a day conferred the protection from breast cancer. The story was so popular that it was reported in 74 newspaper stories around the country in mid-March.

Mushrooms may be good to prostates too
Earlier research published in the journal Cancer Research in 2006 has revealed that compounds in mushrooms inhibit two enzymes that encourage the progression of both breast and prostate cancer in mice. If you are desperate to know, the two enzymes are called aromatase (breast cancer), and 5-alpha reductase (prostate cancer). Because the results have been very encouraging, funding has just been granted to conduct human studies in the US.

What does it all mean?
This was the first human research on common mushrooms and breast cancer. A previous Korean study also found a link between other types of mushrooms and a lower risk of breast cancer. As we have an inclination as to how mushrooms are affecting breast and prostate cancer cells, the mushroom seems like a simple way of putting the odds in our favour against the top two cancers that hit non-smokers.

We have to remember that this was in Chinese women who naturally have a lower rate of breast cancer, so we can’t guarantee a similar result with those eating a western-style diet.

Reference: International Journal of Cancer 2009; 124: 1404-1408

Potential conflict of interest: Glenn Cardwell consults to the mushroom industry. He was not involved in the study.


Sweta (My Indian Dietitian) said...

I believe you cannot isolate one particular item in a diet-there probably are other contributing factors too.For example-more fruits and vegetables and maybe a lot less fat in the diet than the rest of the world!
Nevertheless,I'm always pro any research recommending fruits/vegs-so,here's a hooray to mushrooms and green tea!

Glenn Cardwell said...

Can only agree with you Sweta. We can't forget the big picture. Still, it was interesting that they isolated the mushroom as the key food associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.