Can Mushrooms Prevent Breast Cancer?

Find out if mushrooms are an effective form of prevention for breast cancer

Few women want to undergo the trauma of finding a lump in their breast, particularly if it’s malignant. The reality is that up to one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Fortunately, with the good screening techniques available today, many breast cancers are detected early and can be cured. There’s also evidence that diet and lifestyle habits play a role in preventing this disease. Comparisons are often made between the dietary habits of Asians living in China and Japan where the breast cancer risk is as much as five times lower than in the U.S.A. An interesting new study suggests that one food commonly eaten food, the mushroom, may account for some of this difference. Are mushroom effective for breast cancer prevention?

Mushrooms for Prevention of Breast Cancer: The Study
This study which was published in the International Journal of Cancer looked at a group of 1,009 Chinese women diagnosed with breast cancer and an equal number of healthy controls using food questionnaires. After analyzing the results, they found that women who consumed fresh or dried mushrooms had a lower risk of breast cancer than those who didn’t and that the effect was dose dependent, meaning the more mushrooms eaten, the lower the breast cancer risk. It was also shown that drinking green tea along with the mushrooms had an additional breast cancer lowering effect. This association was seen in both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal Chinese women. A previous study also showed that mushroom extract when given to mice inhibited growth of breast cancer cells.

Why Are Mushrooms Effective for Prevention of Breast Cancer?
It appears that linoelic acid, found in mushrooms, inhibits the activity of the aromatase enzyme involved in estrogen synthesis, thus lowering estrogen levels. Estrogen is one of the primary fuels for the growth of breast cancer cells and interventions that lower estrogen levels are often effective for breast cancer prevention.

How Many Mushrooms Do You Need to Eat?
It’s unclear how many mushrooms you’d have to consume on a daily basis for breast cancer prevention. In this study, the effect was dose dependent with reductions in risk seen with as little as five grams of mushrooms per day. Although the type of mushrooms weren’t specified in this study, previous studies have shown the common button mushroom appeared to have more aromatase blocking activity than fancier varieties such as the shiitake and portabella.

Mushrooms for Prevention of Breast Cancer: The Bottom Line?
This is encouraging news for mushroom lovers, but keep in mind that larger scale human trials are needed to confirm this association. In the meantime, mushrooms still make a healthy, low calorie snack or side dish.

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