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Vegetable Nutrient May Halt Breast Cancer Tumor Cells

Parsley and Celery Rich in Apigenin, an antioxidant

Regular exercise and a healthy diet may be protective factors for some types of cancer, including breast cancer. Researchers and physicians most often promote a low-fat, plant-based diet, as these foods are rich in vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients. Salman Hyder, a researcher from the University of Missouri, has isolated a compound in plant foods, especially parsley and celery, which appears to stop certain breast cancer tumor cells from multiplying and growing.

Apigenin, an Antioxidant, May Slow Growth of Cancer Cells Per Lab Research

Synthetic hormones used in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are known to accelerate breast tumor development, notes Hyder, a Zalk Endowed Professor in Tumor Angiogenesis and professor of biomedical sciences. In the current study, laboratory rats were given a progestin known as medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), one of the most common HRT’s received in the US.

The animals with HRT-induced breast cancer were then exposed to apigenin, a bioflavonoid present in leafy plants and vegetables which have been shown in research trials to reduce DNA oxidative damage, inhibit the growth of human leukemia cells, inhibit cancer cell signal transduction, and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Read: One-Third of Breast Cancer Cases Can Be Avoided with Diet and Exercise

When tumor cells develop in the breast in response to MPA, Hyder explains, they encourage new blood vessels to form within the tumors. Apigenin blocked this blood vessel formation, thereby delaying or stopping the development of the tumors. Hyder also found that the compound reduced the overall number of tumors.
Unfortunately, however, apigenin did not stop the initial formation of cancer cells within the breast.

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Apigenin is most prevalent in parsley, artichoke, basil and celery. It is also found in apples, oranges, nuts and other plant foods. But it is not absorbed efficiently in the bloodstream, so the researchers are unable at this point to give a recommendation on how much of these foods per day should be consumed for benefit in slowing cancer growth, or even if food sources are the best option.

Read: How to Choose Safe Fruits and Vegetables

“We don’t have specific dosage for humans yet,” Hyder said. “However, it appears that keeping a minimal level of apigenin in the bloodstream is important to delay the onset of breast cancer that progresses in response to progestins such as MPA. It’s probably a good idea to eat a little parsley and some fruit every day to ensure the minimal amount.”

In 2009, researchers with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that apigenin may also be of benefit in fighting ovarian cancer. Women with the highest intake of the nutrient had a “borderline significant” 28 percent lower risk of cancer than those with the lowest intake.

Journal Reference:
B. Mafuvadze, I. Benakanakere, F. Lopez, C. L. Besch-Williford, M. Ellersieck, S. M. Hyder. Apigenin prevents development of medroxyprogesterone acetate-accelerated 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced mammary tumors in Sprague-Dawley rats. Cancer Prevention Research, 2011; DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-10-0382

Image Source: Chanita Harel