In the first-ever study of its type, Canadian researchers have shown that flax seed consumption reduces the risk of breast cancer by 28 percent in postmenopausal women and flax bread consumption reduces risk by 26 percent in both pre- and postmenopausal women. These results indicate that flax seed and flax-containing breads may be simple but effective means for reducing breast cancer risk.
Lignans are a class of polyphenols which have powerful antioxidant and anti-estrogenic effects, and for this reason they have been suggested as a possible preventive measure for breast cancer. Indeed, lignans have already been shown to inhibitgrowth and induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) of both ER- and ER+ breast cancer cells both in vitro and in animal studies. Importantly, lignans also inhibit the ability of both ER+ and ER- breast cancer cells to metastasize by potently down-regulating the metalloproteinases MMP2, MMP9 and MMP14.
Unfortunately, lignans are not easy to get in the diet from commonly eaten foods. The best sources are whole grains, bran, seeds, nuts and legumes. But these only provide about 0.25 to 1.0 milligram of lignans per 100 grams of food. The shining exceptions to this are flax seed, sesame seeds, and chickpeas with lignan contents of 335 mg, 132 mg, and 35 mg respectively (per 100 grams of food). Flaxseed and sesame seeds are clearly superfoods when it comes to lignans, with over 100 times the lignan content of virtually any other food. (Note that normal flax oil contains no lignans.)
Up to 28 percent risk reduction for breast cancer shown in the first-ever study on flax seed
Owing to the emerging high potential of flax seeds for cancer prevention, Canadian researchers recently ran the first ever study specifically to analyze breast cancer risk versus flax seed consumption. They analyzed the diets of 2,999 women with breast cancer and 3,370 healthy controls (all aged 25 to 74 years) for flax consumption. Postmenopausal women experienced 28 percent less breast cancer if they consumed at least one quarter cup flax seeds over a month, and 26 percent less cancer if they ate at least one slice of flax bread weekly. Premenopausal women saw up to 26 percent risk reduction by eating flax bread, but were not protected (with statistical significance) by flax seed.
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