If you're concerned about your family's-- or your own -- cancer risk, you might want to add the antioxidant resveratrol to your diet. That's the conclusion of a new study just pubished in the July issue of Cancer Prevention Research, showing that resveratrol, a plant chemical found in red wine, peanuts, and blueberries, may protect against breast cancer.
A team led by Eleanor Rogan of the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases at the University of Nebraska demonstrated that resveratrol suppresses the abnormal cell growth that leads to most types of breast cancer. Breast cancer is fueled by estrogen, and resveratrol acts to block the action of the estrogen, preventing it from feeding tumor growth.
This study is only the latest good news about red wine and resveratrol, which is being studied by teams at several universities and cancer centers.
- Research conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that mice fed a diet enriched with resveratrol had an 87 percent reduction in their their risk of developing prostate tumors of the most dangerous kind.
- Researchers at the University of Virginia published findings suggesting that the compound might work by blocking a protein that feeds cancer cells, causing them to self-destruct.
- And yes, it has to be red wine -- researchers at Harvard found that while men who drank red wine cut their risk of prostate cancer by half, men who drank white wine gained no such benefit, and men who drank beer actually increased their risk of cancer.
Researchers have been hesitant to hail resveratrol as the new anti-cancer wonder drug, because most studies so far have been conducted in test tubes and mice rather than humans. But reaction to the latest study suggests the scales are tipping.
Cancer experts were particularly excited that Rogan's research showed resveratrol begins to block tumors at a relatively low dose, 10 micromolar units per liter, the amount in one glass of red wine. (Most red wines contain 9-28 micromolar units per liter of resveratrol.) Previous studies have suggested that resveratrol might offer protection from tumors, but at much higher doses -- the equivalent of drinking a bottle of wine a night.
Researchers caution, though, that the resveratrol studies are not a reason for people to begin drinking large quantities of red wine. In fact, some of the studies suggest that drinking too much wine could reverse the effects and increase cancer risk. Instead, the best advice is to drink up to one glass of red wine a night three or four times a week. If you don't drink, you can add resveratrol to your diet by taking a supplement, but make sure it's one in which the compound -- which oxidizes and decomposes easily -- has been stabilized in an airtight capsule.
Image by Flickr user hikljgk used with permission under the creative commons attribution license.