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Flaxseeds, wheat bran, veggies lower death rates from breast cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Flaxseed and other phytoestrogen containing foods reduce breast cancer

Research suggests plant compounds known as phytoestrogens that are found in vegetables and seeds can lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer. A new study suggests the chance of dying from breast cancer is 40 percent lower for women who consume phytoestrogen containing foods such as flaxseed, wheat bran and vegetables.

A meta-analysis found the plant compounds can lower the chances of breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose intake of vegetables, seeds and other phytoestrogen containing foods is high by 15%. The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2009.

LIgnans in the diet could improve breast cancer outcomes

Plant phytoestrogens can attach to estrogen receptors in the body. When lignans - a class of phytochemicals that also have antioxidant properties – enter the bowel, they produce enterolactone with the help of gut bacteria, which is measureable with a blood test.

Lignans are found in wheat bran, flaxseeds, oat bran, barley, sesame seed and rye bran. They are also found in nuts and vegetables.

For the current study, researchers wanted to find out if phytoestrogens can also improve survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

They took blood samples from 1140 women with post-menopausal breast cancer from 2002 to 2005, using the MARIE study.

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The results showed women with the highest levels of enterolactone in their blood stream had the lowest chance of dying from breast cancer. The research also showed the phytochemical plant compounds only lower the risk of dying from estrogen receptor negative forms of the disease, meaning the plant compounds likely help prevent breast cancer spread from other, non-hormonal effects.

Studies in cell cultures and animals have shown the plant compounds stop cancer tumors by preventing the growth of new blood vessels; promoting cell death.

The study was led by Prof. Dr. Jenny Chang-Claude who said, "We now have first clear evidence showing that lignans lower not only the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer, but also the mortality risk.

"In order to find out whether enterolactone also inhibits the aggressiveness of estrogen receptors in estrogen-positive tumors, we would need to expand this study to include much larger groups of women. By eating a diet that is rich in wholemeal products, seeds and vegetables, which is considered to be health-promoting anyway, everybody can take in enough lignans. At the present time, we can only discourage people from taking any food supplements.”

The finding suggests women being treated for breast cancer should increase their intake of whole grains, vegetables, nuts, wheat bran and flaxseed. The study suggests the dietary intervention can reduce the chances of disease spread and of dying from cancer of the breast.

Katharina Buck, Alina Vrieling, Aida Karina Zaineddin, Susen Becker, Anika Hüsing, Rudolf Kaaks, Jakob Linseisen, Dieter Flesch-Janys, and Jenny Chang-Claude
"Serum Enterolactone and Prognosis of Postmenopausal Breast Cancer"
Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2011,
DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2011.34.6478

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