Flaxseed May Curb Prostate Tumor Growth
Popular Plant Product Slows Out-of-Control Cancer Cell Division
WebMD News Archive
June 4, 2007 (Chicago) -- A diet rich in flaxseed may help curb the growth
of prostate tumors, preliminary research suggests.
Reducing fat in the diet, however, does not appear to have any effect on
prostate cancer growth, says researcher Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, a
professor in the school of nursing and the department of surgery at Duke
University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
The researchers studied 161 men with prostate cancer scheduled to have their
tumors surgically removed.
In the month prior to surgery, they were divided into four groups: one
followed their regular diets, one took 30 grams of flaxseed a day, one
restricted their dietary intake of fat to less than 20% of total calories, and
one took flaxseed and restricted their dietary fat.
Prostate Tumor Growth Slows
As measured by how fast their cancer cells were dividing, tumors grew about
30% to 40% slower in the men taking flaxseed whether or not they followed a
“It’s reasonable to suspect that reducing cell proliferation -- the rate at
which cancer cells divide -- is a good thing and likely to be associated with
relief of symptoms and better survival,” Ted Gansler, MD, director of medical
content at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, tells WebMD. Gansler was not
involved with the research.
Demark-Wahnefried notes that flaxseed didn’t cause side effects such as
nausea or vomiting.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of
Flaxseed Rich in Omega-3s
An edible seed, flaxseed has been used in breads and cereals since the
Middle Ages, says Demark-Wahnefried.
Sold in health food stores as well as many grocery stores, it’s available in
whole seed, ground meal, and seed oil forms.
In the study, the men took powdered flaxseed, which was ground and mixed
into food or drink.
Demark-Wahnefried says her team decided to study flaxseed because it is rich
in disease-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Whole and powdered flaxseed are also
chock full of lignans, a type of plant estrogen that is thought to curb the
out-of-control cell growth that fuels cancer. Flaxseed oil does not contain
In previous studies, lignans slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells that
were grown in laboratories, and flaxseed shrunk prostate tumors in mice, she
Based on animal and smaller studies, the researchers thought a low-fat diet,
too, would have cancer-fighting effects. But in this study, the low-fat diet
did not curb tumor growth.
Flaxseed a Healthy Food
Both Gansler and Demark-Wahnefried stressed that while promising, the
results are preliminary. But unlike many other alternative products, there
doesn’t seem to be any downside to taking flaxseed, they say.
“At this point, we can’t yet say flaxseed protects against prostate cancer,”
Demark-Wahnefried tells WebMD. “But it’s a healthy, nutritious food, rich in
fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, that is likely to offer health benefits.”
Based on these and other promising findings, researchers plan further study
of flaxseed in men with prostate cancer as well as in women with breast cancer,
Would you add
flaxseed to your diet? Share your thoughts on the WebMD Prostate Cancer
Support Group board.