Dieting women across the world begrudgingly munch on celery to help reduce their waistline, but new research suggests they may also be reducing their risk of dying from breast cancer.
Breast cancer research using an antioxidant found in celery and parsley
Salman Hyder, a University of Missouri researcher, conducted tests with apigenin, a plant-based antioxidant found in parsley and celery, on laboratory rats with progesterone receptor-positive breast cancer. While the compound did not stop the initial formation of cancer cells within the breast, the rats exposed to apigenin developed fewer tumors, and had significantly delayed growth in the tumors that did form, than the rats that did not receive apigenin.
What the new apigenin research means for women
Hyder believes his findings could benefit women who are using certain hormone replacement therapies, which have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
“Six to 10 million women in the United States receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT),” Hyder said in a University of Missouri press release. “We know that certain synthetic hormones used in HRT accelerate breast tumor development. In our study, we exposed the rats to one of the chemicals used in the most common HRTs received in the United States – a progestin called medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) – which also happens to be the same synthetic hormone that accelerates breast tumor development.”
MPA increases the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is a protein used by cells to signal the need for new vascular growth. When breast cancer cells send the signal for new blood vessels, the result is increased blood flow and nutrients to the tumors, which allows them to grow and multiply. Hyder found apigenin blocked the formation of new blood vessels, which in turn delayed, or even stopped, the growth and spread of breast cancer tumors.
Fresh produce sources of apigenin
While parsley and celery contain the highest amounts of apigenin, other plant-based foods are also good sources. Women can increase their intake of apigenin by adding a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet, such as apples, oranges, rutabagas, and green leafy vegetables. Herbs and spices that contain apigenin include basil, oregano, tarragon, cilantro, and peppermint.
It is important to note, however, that too much apigenin can interfere with certain cancer treatments.
“We don’t have specific dosage for humans yet,” Hyder said. “However, it appears that keeping a minimal level of apigenin in the bloodstream is important to delay the onset of breast cancer that progresses in response to progestins such as MPA. It’s probably a good idea to eat a little parsley and some fruit every day to ensure the minimal amount. However, you can also find this compound in pill supplements in the health food section of many stores. Of course, you should always check with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle.”
Breast cancer information in Indianapolis
Indianapolis area women who have questions about breast cancer prevention can call the St. Vincent Center for Women’s Health at 317-338-4HER or the The Susan G. Komen Foundation national toll-free helpline at 1-800-462-9273. Call 317-638-CURE to contact the Central Indiana Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.