Flax Seed Consumption May Drastically Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality

We are what we eat.  Everybody knows this to be true, so why is it always a surprise when scientists tell us things like this; flax seeds are rich in phytoestrogens which are substances that can potentially reduce the danger of fatal breast cancer in older women–according to researchers from Germany.  Results from a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology [1], suggest that eating a diet eating a diet rich in flax seeds may reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer later in life by up to 40%.

Flax Seed Consumption and Breast Cancer

Scientists at the Heidelberg centre for Cancer Research have researched foods such as seeds, vegetables and wheat.  Phytoestrogens work with bodily processes, in particular the hormone estrogen, to kill cancerous cells.  Phytoestrogen is converted to enterolactone in the intestines and absorbed in the mucus tissue.

What Are Lignans?

Furthermore phytoestrogens continue to work with the body to prevent the growth of blood vessels that could have fed secondary tumours. One of the key groups of phytoestrogens are lignans which is found in great proportions in flax seeds. The phytoestrogens link up with the women’s sex hormone, oestrogen and do their work to protect against cancer.  flax seed, wheat and vegetables are good sources of lignans.

The evidence cited in the Journal of Clinical Oncology is compelling.  Blood samples from over a thousand women (1140) who had symptoms of middle age post menopausal breast cancer were analysed over a period of over a three years. The subjects fell into one of two risk groups. Those subjects with higher quantities of enterolactone in their blood had a much improved survival rate, forty percent better, than those women with the lowest levels of enterolactone.   As mentioned, phytoestrogens get converted to enterolactone in the bowel.  This substance was found to also prevent the spread of primary and secondary cancer in their study which is thought to be a due to its hormone linking properties.

Do Lignans Improve Breast Cancer Survival?

Professor J. Chang-Claude claims this to be the first clear evidence linking lignans to improved survival rates. But the efficacious effects are only significant for tumours without receptors for estrogen, those so-called ER (estrogen receptor) negative ones. This points to enterolactone protecting against cancer and not only due to its ‘hormone’ effect.

Interesting supporting evidence sees women in Asia with far fewer instances of breast cancer surely linked to the soy rich diet. Soya contains a further type of phytoestrogen called isoflavin. Other research links this substance to cancer growth resistance regardless of estrogen levels. Killing off cancerous cells and inhibiting new blood vessels.

Major Food Sources of Lignans

Lignans from Dietary Sources:

Enough of the science stuff, what are the lessons for ordinary mortals?  It is simple really, eat more real food–mostly plants and in particular whole grain products, seeds and vegetables. All of these dietary components are things which promote a healthy body in themselves. Sufficient lignans can be found by simply eating a healthy diet, so researchers don’t recommend these types of supplements.

If flax seed and lignans are the good news when it comes to breast cancer, then maybe breast screening is the bad news. There is growing evidence that women are more likely to need a mastectomy if they have had regular breast screening. The purpose of breast screening of course is to make early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. The positive benefits of this needs to be set against the increase risk of the surgical intervention.

  1. Article source:   Serum Enterolactone and prognosis of posmenopausal breast cancer.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

2 thoughts on “Flax Seed Consumption May Drastically Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality

  • September 20, 2011 at 8:38 am

    “Enough of the science stuff, what are the lessons for ordinary mortals? It is simple really, eat more real food–mostly plants and in particular whole grain products, seeds and vegetables.” I totally agree. We have to stop looking for miracle solutions to our health problems and just accept the fact that we need to make major changes to our diet and lifestyle if we want to remain healthy. Just having some flax seed with your burger and french fries just won’t do it.

  • September 19, 2011 at 7:01 am

    Flax seeds also known as linseed is good source of omega-3 fatty acids and very good for heart health. And of corse it can help reduce/prevent breast cancer.


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