October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’m delighted to share an article with you written by Dr. Helayne Waldman, co-author of The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors. Dr. Waldman is a holistic nutrition educator in private practice and a consultant to breast cancer clinics and doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Inflammation is your immune system’s natural response to an injury, such as a pulled muscle, or to germs, allergens, chemical irritants, and other threats. Your immune system reacts by releasing white blood cells and chemicals into the bloodstream, which infiltrate your tissues, creating the indicators of inflammation that most of us are familiar with: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. This is a normal and appropriate response; our bodies need to stay vigilant in order to fend off an invasion or injury with aggressive pro-inflammatory mechanisms, such as clotting, fever, and swelling. But too often, inflammation becomes a chronic condition, and in this state, we leave ourselves more vulnerable to breast cancer occurrence and recurrence.
An important characteristic of chronic inflammation is its relationship to angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels that serve to feed a tumor. While this too is a natural and normal process, it is also one that tumors can hijack to build a blood supply to accommodate their growing needs. Inflammatory cells stimulate the formation of new blood vessels which then transport critical nutrients to the tumor. This is a recipe for chronic inflammation, and clearly, inflammation and the resulting angiogenesis need to be kept under control. What can you do to control and reduce the cancer-promoting effects of chronic inflammation? Here’s one idea: Drink green tea.
Green tea is widely recognized for its anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties. It supplies catechins, a class of antioxidants with therapeutic value for reducing your risk of breast cancer. The most abundant in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, a catechin that has demonstrated inflammation-reduction and cancer-interruption both in the lab and in animals. In May 2013, researchers concluded that their “findings support the hypothesis that EGCG… directly targets both tumor cells and tumor vasculature, thereby inhibiting tumor growth, proliferation, migration, and angiogenesis of breast cancer.” The finding that EGCG acts on cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed reinforces past results — that the catechins in green tea induced apoptosis, or cell death, in cancer cells but not in their normal cell counterparts.
Another recent study from the journal PLoS (Sept., 2013) once again put EGCG to the test, this time against a highly aggressive form of breast cancer known as inflammatory breast cancer. . The authors summarized, “EGCG decreased expression of genes that promote [cancer cell] proliferation, migration, invasion, and survival. Consistently, growth, invasive properties, and survival of [inflammatory breast cancer] cells were reduced by EGCG treatment.” Well done!
To enjoy all of the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits green tea has to offer, it is best to get caffeinated green tea and add lemon juice when drinking — caffeine helps to enhance green tea’s tumor-suppressive properties while the vitamin C in lemon juice amplifies the effects of EGCG.
photo: McKay Savage