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Health News Archive 21 -  Breast Cancer
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Soy Isoflavones and Miso Protect Against Breast Cancer

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a report in June 2003 that established a relationship between increased consumption of soy isoflavones and the fermented soy paste miso, with a lower incidence of breast cancer among Japanese women.  Isoflavones from soy include genistein and daidzein, which have been found to have a number of health benefits.

The researchers examined data obtained from the Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study on Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, which enrolled 27,435 women and a similar number of men in January 1990.  Upon enrollment, participants completed a questionnaire concerning their intake of food and beverages, personal and family history of diseases, and other pertinent information.  The subjects also provided information on their consumption of various types of soy foods including miso soup. The participants were followed for ten years by a private investigator to ensure that they did not cheat (just kidding).  During this 10-year period, 225 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.  After disqualifying 5,583 women, the final analysis included 21,852 women of whom 179 had breast cancer diagnoses provided during follow-up.

Analysis of the data determined a significant inverse relationship between the risk of developing breast cancer and intake of soy isoflavones (as calculated from various soy foods) and miso soup.  Women whose isoflavone consumption was in the highest one-fourth of the participants had less than half the risk of breast cancer than women whose isoflavone consumption was in the lowest 25%.  A stronger protective benefit for isoflavones emerged for postmenopausal women than for premenopausal women.

The fact that women in this study whose soy isoflavone consumption was the lowest still had an intake that is 250 times greater than that consumed daily by Caucasian women in the U.S. may account for the lower incidence of breast cancer found in Japanese women.

Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, June 18, 2003. 

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Glucose Metabolism Implicated In Breast Cancer

Alterations in glucose metabolism may be associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer before menopause, according to a recent study.

The prospective study, presented at the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program conference in October 2002, was designed to determine whether serum glucose, insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) are associated with breast cancer. Using a case-control study design, researchers recruited 10,786 women in Italy for the study. Women with a family history of breast cancer and women on hormone therapy were excluded.

The researchers studied baseline blood samples following a 12-hour fast.  After 5 1/2 years, 144 cases of breast cancer occurred in the subjects. In matching the cases to healthy controls from the original sample, the researchers determined that glucose was associated with breast cancer risk in premenopausal women. Insulin and IGF-1 demonstrated a weaker association with breast cancer. No associations were found for glucose and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners have a glycemic index of 70-80.  This study did not evaluate the frequency of diet soft drink consumption by the study group.  Anyone interested in controlling their blood sugar levels can consume stevia, a natural sweetener which does not result in the steep rise in blood sugar seen after sugar consumption.  Stevia is a natural sweet tasting plant derivative that has a glycemic index of 0 and does not affect blood sugar levels.

Source: Paola Muti, MD, et al. The Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program conference, October 1, 2002, Orlando, Florida.

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Conjugated Linoleic Acid May Ward Off Breast Cancer

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), a fatty acid found in milk and meat, appears to limit breast cancer by shutting off its ability to summon blood vessels, this study shows.  CLA clamps down on the formation of new blood vessels -- a process called angiogenesis -- that tumors need to support their source of nutrients.

"It appears to be an anti-angiogenic compound and a nontoxic one," said Margot Ip of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., who led the study. Ip presented her findings at a meeting of the U.S. Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program in September 2002 in Orlando, Florida.

PROCEDURE: Ip's group first dosed rat mammary cells in a dish with CLA, and saw that in the presence of the chemical they produced far fewer tiny blood vessels. They then fed the substance to live rats, and saw in tissue samples that the growth of new vessels was cut by up to 80 percent.

Ip said CLA seems to prevent one class of flexible mammary cells, called stromal cells, from becoming vessels that can feed tumors that form in the milk ducts. Instead, CLA encourages these cells to convert into harmless fatty tissue.

CLA has anti-cancer properties in a wide range of cells, from the breast to the colon. But its effects are overwhelmed by the harmful impact of other fats that are more prevalent in food, said Jack Vanden Heuvel, a molecular toxicologist at Penn State University who studies the chemical.   "CLA is just one type of fatty acid that's in all those foods that are high in fats, and on balance they're bad," Vanden Heuvel said. Scientists are trying to increase the concentration of CLA in dairy products by manipulating what cows eat.

CLA is also available as a dietary supplement, and evidence suggests that it can lower body fat while increasing lean muscle mass. However, it hasn't been around as a diet aid long enough to know if it indeed prevents cancer in people, Vanden Heuvel said.

Vanden Heuvel said the latest study agrees with his own research, which has found that CLA binds to and activates a protein called PPAR-gamma. This protein helps cells become a variety of tissues, whereas tumors are cells that have already committed to a single function and are more prone to cancerous mutations.   His group has found that CLA acts much like a novel class of diabetes drugs called the glitazones, which make fat cells better able to handle blood sugar. Research suggests that these medications not only block angiogenesis but also may prevent colon, breast and prostate tumors.

"There's solid evidence that CLA has the ability to inhibit cancer," said Mark McGuire, a lactation biologist at the University of Idaho in Moscow who studies the chemical. Humans get about 95 percent of their CLA in beef and milk. Yet because it's a fatty acid, people who drink skim milk aren't getting any in their milk.

Rat data and human studies from Finland suggest that bumping up CLA intake by only 20 percent can slice the risk of breast cancer in half, McGuire said. One way to do that is to swap whole milk for skim and to cook with butter instead of vegetable oil or margarine.   Of course, making those changes increases saturated fat consumption, which can hike the risk of heart disease. But McGuire said he and his colleagues have found that women who drink whole milk in moderation don't develop unhealthy blood fat levels that might put them at risk of heart and vessel problems.

In another study presented at today's meeting, Alabama scientist found that when you eat a cancer-preventing food may be as important as simply eating it at all. The researchers showed that rats fed the soy protein genistein, which may prevent breast cancer, had fewer tumors later on if they ate the substance before entering puberty.   The findings suggest that adolescent and pre-adolescent girls who eat a soy-rich diet may ward off breast cancer later in life. That agrees with a 2001 study, which found that Chinese women who ate high-soy foods when they were teenagers had half the incidence of breast cancer as those who ate less of the nutrient.

Coral Lamartiniere, a toxicologist at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who led the latest work, said genistein helps immature mammary cells become "differentiated"-- that is, it prompts them to choose a specific function in the breast. "It's undifferentiated cells that are susceptible to carcinogens," he said.

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Grape Juice Inhibits Breast Cancer Cell Growth in Animal Study

Purple grape juice fed to laboratory animals led to significant reductions in both mammary tumor mass and the number of tumors per animal, according to a study presented at a scientific conference in April 2002. The researchers also found that Concord grape color extract inhibited proliferation of rat mammary cancer cells in related cell culture tests.

"These studies indicate that components in Concord grape juice can inhibit the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells in rats," explained Keith Singletary, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and lead author of the study..

In one study, three different concentrations of Concord grape juice were fed to female Sprague-Dawley rats beginning one week after the administration of a mammary carcinogen--a tumor-inducing compound. Rats in the control group also received the carcinogen, but were fed fluids with concentrations of calories, carbohydrates and organic acids similar to those in the grape juice concentrations. At the end of the study, mammary tumor mass was reduced by 28% to 36% in the groups consuming the two higher grape juice concentrations, compared to controls.

At the same time, the number of tumors per animal was reduced by 45% to 65%, in the same two groups. Concurrent experiments also confirmed that addition of Concord grape color extract to cultures of breast cancer cells derived from carcinogen-induced rat mammary tumors lead to a significant, dose-dependent inhibition of cell multiplication.

"In addition to our own work, other research has suggest that certain components in grapes, possibly the polyphenols, may have an inhibitory or preventive affect on the growth of breast cancer cells," notes Dr. Singletary. "And while these findings are preliminary and based on animal-model research, they certainly suggest the need to look more closely at the possible benefits they may eventually offer women."

The research was presented at the International Scientific Conference on Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medical Research, co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School, UCSF Medical School and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Funding was provided by the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research.

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Soy Protein Suppresses Breast Cancer Hormones

A study published in the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism reported that Antioxidant compounds found in soy foods have been shown to reduce levels of hormones associated with breast cancer risk in women. Now, the results of a small study suggest that other factors associated with soy may also play a role in lowering cancer risk.

The investigators found that nine healthy, premenopausal women who consumed a diet containing soymilk in which most of the antioxidant compounds, isoflavones, had been removed, produced less estrogen and progesterone than they produced before they added soy to their diets. Other reproductive hormones were not affected by the diet, which was also low in animal protein and high in fiber, the researchers report.

The important finding from my study is that it is not too hard to lower a woman's...female hormone, reported Dr. Lee-Jane W. Lu, the study's lead author.  By replacing--not supplementing--a portion of one's energy intake (with) soy, one can lower one's female hormones.

Estrogen can stimulate the growth of some types of breast cancer cells and is thought to play a role in the development of some cases of breast cancer. Women with a higher lifetime exposure to estrogen--for instance, those who got their first period at an early age, those who do not have children and women who do not breastfeed--may face a higher risk of breast cancer. The hormone progesterone also contributes to breast cancer risk by helping tumors to grow.

"Our results may have implications for breast cancer prevention by soy dietary intervention," according to Lu and her colleagues at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

In the study, researchers measured levels of estrogen, progesterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in women before they began the diet. LH and FSH stimulate ovarian function.

The women followed the diet, which included 36 ounces of soymilk containing less than 5 milligrams of isoflavones daily, for one month. The study diet contained more carbohydrate and less protein than the women's usual diets, the report indicates.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2001;86:3045-3052.

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Antioxidants Associated with Reduced Breast Cancer Risk

Research: Blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E, beta­carotene and lutein/zeaxanthin (in combination), cryptoxanthin, lycopene, alpha-carotene and vitamin A in 160 breast cancer patients and 229 healthy women were compared.

Results: In premenopausal women, high levels of the antioxidants were associated with reduced risk of breast cancer: Vitamin E (59%), beta-carotene (67%), lutein/zeaxanthin (87%), and vitamin A (85%). 

In postmenopausal women, high levels of the antioxidants had the following associated breast cancer risk reduction: Vitamin E (87%), vitamin A (92%), beta­carotene (72%), alpha-carotene (80%), lycopene (75), lutein/zeaxanthin (88%).

Source: Nutr Res 2001;21:797-809

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Flaxseed Protects Against Breast Cancer

Flaxseed can help protect post-menopausal women from breast cancer, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.  This study was presented at the August 2001 annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.  The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. 

"We don't know exactly how flaxseed does what it does. But we do know that it is considered to be the most concentrated food source of lignan," said Dr. Joanne Slavin, lead investigator and professor of nutrition and food science. "Lignan appears to lower estrogen in humans by inhibiting enzymes that are involved in estrogen synthesis."

Flaxseed provides 75 to 800 times more plant lignans, a type of phytoestrogen, than most other plant sources. Phytoestrogens are compounds that appear to interfere with estrogen metabolism in animals and humans.  Some research suggests a correlation between estrogen metabolism and an increase of the chemical markers in the blood associated with development of breast cancer.

Twenty-eight postmenopausal nuns from a convent in central Minnesota volunteered for the study. They took daily supplements of zero, 5 or 10 grams of ground flaxseed in seven-week cycles over the course of a year.

The 5- and 10-gram groups showed a significant decrease in estrogens common to postmenopausal women -- estrone sulfate and estradiol. "Since previous studies show that increased levels of estrone sulfate and estradiol may increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, reducing levels of these hormones could be protective against breast cancer," Dr. Slavin said.

"The results are encouraging. Flaxseed appears to change the way that estrogen is metabolized by the body, making the metabolized product less estrogenic," Dr. Lillian Thompson, professor of nutrition science at the University of Toronto commented. "Estrogen is known to promote tumor growth. So the reduction of the estrogenic effect can be beneficial. However, a reduction in the estrogenic effect can have negative impact on osteoporosis development. So it depends what you are trying to do for a person."

Flax is an ancient crop traced back to 3,000 B.C. when it was cultivated by the Babylonians. It is grown all over the world. There are two types of flaxseed. One is grown for the seed use and considered an oil seed variety. The other is grown for fiber production used by the textile industry. In North America, it is primarily the oil seed varieties that are produced and marketed as "health" food and dietary supplements.

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Regression of Breast Cancer Metastases with Coenzyme Q10

Over 35 years, data and knowledge have internationally evolved from biochemical, biomedical and clinical research on vitamin Q10 (coenzyme Q10; CoQ10) and cancer.  Research led in 1993 to overt complete regression of the tumors in two cases of breast cancer.  Continuing this research, three additional breast cancer patients also underwent a conventional protocol of therapy which included a daily oral dosage of 390 mg of Coenzyme Q10 during the complete trials over 3-5 years. 

The numerous metastases in the liver of a 44-year-old patient disappeared, and no signs of metastases were found elsewhere. A 49-year-old patient, on a dosage of 390 mg of Coenzyme Q10, revealed no signs of tumor in the pleural cavity after six months, and her condition was excellent. A 75-year-old patient with carcinoma in one breast, after lumpectomy and 390 mg of CoQ10, showed no cancer in the tumor bed or metastases.

Control blood levels of CoQ10 of 0.83-0.97 and of 0.62 micrograms/ml increased to 3.34-3.64 and to 3.77 micrograms/ml, respectively, on therapy with CoQ10 for patients A-MRH and EEL.

Source: Lockwood-K. Moesgaard-S. Yamamoto-T. Folkers-K. Progress on therapy of breast cancer with vitamin Q10 and the regression of metastases. Biochem-Biophys-Res-Commun. 1995 Jul 6. 212(1). P 172-7.

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Partial and Complete Remission of Breast Cancer in Relation to CoenzymeQ10 Dosage

Relationships of nutrition and vitamins to the genesis and prevention of cancer are increasingly evident. In a clinical protocol, 32 patients having "high-risk" breast cancer were treated with antioxidants, fatty acids, and 90 mg. of CoenzymeQ10. 

Six of the 32 patients showed partial tumor regression. In one of these 6 cases, the dosage of Coenzyme Q10 was increased to 390 mg per day. In one month, the tumor was no longer palpable and in another month, mammography confirmed the absence of tumor. 

Encouraged, another case having a verified breast tumor, after non-radical surgery and with verified residual tumor in the tumor bed was then treated with 300 mg. CoQ10. After 3 months, the patient was in excellent clinical condition and there was no residual tumor tissue. 

The bioenergetic activity of CoQ10, expressed as hematological or immunological activity, may be the dominant but not the sole molecular mechanism causing the regression of breast cancer.

Source: Lockwood-K. Moesgaard-S. Folkers-K. Partial and complete regression of breast cancer in patients in relation to dosage of coenzyme Q10. Biochem-Biophys-Res-Commun. 1994 Mar 30. 199(3). P 1504-8.

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