Phytoestrogens and Breast Cancer growth

Posted: November 18, 2014 in What is Cancer?
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Phytoestrogens are somewhat similar to human estrogen, and some health experts have speculated that phytoestrogens might even act like human estrogen in the body. This suggestion has raised concerns about whether phytoestrogens may not be safe for people with a history of hormone-linked cancers, such as prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, or ER positive breast cancer.


Lignans, which are the type of phytoestrogens in flaxseed, can change estrogen metabolism. In postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less active forms of estrogen. This is believed to potentially reduce breast cancer risk. There is evidence that adding ground flaxseeds into the diet decreases cell growth in breast tissue as well. Again, this would be the type of change that would be expected to decrease breast cancer risk.

All cells have the ability to go through a process called apoptosis, or programmed cell death. It is believed that through this process, the body can prevent damaged cells from reproducing, and eventually developing into cancer. Researchers have shown that flaxseed sprouts can increase apoptosis (programmed cell death). Some cell and animal studies have shown that two specific phytoestrogens found in lignans, named enterolactone and enterodiol, may help suppress breast tumor growth.

Animal studies have shown that both flaxseed oil and lignans can reduce breast tumor growth and spread, even for ER- cancer cells. This result suggests that flaxseeds may have anti-cancer benefits that are unrelated to any type of effect on estrogen or estrogen metabolism.

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