Flaxseed Could Fight Cancer
Volume 1, No. 2, September 4, 2001
CHICAGO (Reuters Health) - Ground flaxseed may contain
compounds that protect postmenopausal women from breast
cancer, researchers report.
Blood levels of specific estrogens linked to increased
risk for breast cancer "decreased significantly with
flax" supplementation, according to Dr. Joanne Slavin
of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. She presented
the findings here Wednesday at the annual meeting of the
American Chemical Society.
Previous studies have suggested that naturally occurring
compounds called phytoestrogens found in foods like flaxseed
and soy work to lower levels of circulating estrogens linked
to breast cancer. Flaxseed is especially high in one such
phytoestrogen, lignan, which is thought to inhibit estrogen
In their study, Slavin's team tracked blood levels of two
cancer-related estrogens, estrone sulfate and estradiol,
in a group of 28 postmenopausal nuns over the course of
one year. On top of their regular diet (which was similar
for all the women studied), the nuns received daily supplements
of either 0, 5 or 10 grams of ground flaxseed.
The researchers report that levels of the two circulating
estrogens fell significantly among women taking the supplements,
but remained stable in the non-supplement group.
Speaking to reporters, Slavin cautioned that the findings
need to be duplicated in long-term studies before any definite
recommendation regarding women and flaxseed consumption
can be made.
But she believes that flax may soon join soy as a popular
source of cancer-fighting compounds. Already, she said,
many people "are starting to use flax as an alternative
to soy because of its high levels of phytoestrogens."
Prior studies have suggested flaxseed may protect younger
women from breast cancer, as well, Slavin said.
And last month, researchers reported in a small pilot study
that a low-fat diet supplemented with flaxseed may reduce
the growth of prostate cancer cells.