Diet/Supplements >> Flaxseed May Be Helpful In Preventing Breast Cancer
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Flaxseed May Be Helpful In Preventing Breast Cancer

Flaxseed has been used for thousands of years in the making of linens, and its oil may be beneficial in the fight against breast cancer. Since the 1950's, flaxseed has been promoted as having cancer-preventing qualities, yet scientists have only recently begun to discover evidence that the Omega-3 oil in flaxseed helps to prevent many different types of cancers. A phytoestrogen in flaxseed by the name of lignin appears to be the beneficial factor.


Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds that lower estrogens in the body. The amount of circulating estrogen is a factor in the development of some types of estrogen-dependent cancers, one of which is breast cancer. If the amount of estrogens in the body is lowered, the rate of growth of cancer cells may be slowed as well, possibly resulting in preventing tumors from forming in the first place. Since most of the studies have been on animals to date, further research is necessary, but the results look promising.



How does it work? "Flaxseed oil is high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, which is thought to help reduce the risk of developing cancer when consumed," according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Lignins seem to reduce the growth rate of cancer cells by acting as "anti-estrogens," or weak estrogens, which then act as a foil for cells. If a tumor cell cannot get the estrogen to feed it, cell growth is slowed. The mechanism which may prevent cancer from forming is what scientists are studying.


Flaxseed used to be available only in health food stores, but it is increasingly available in your local supermarket. Look for it in the organic or healthy foods aisle. According to nutritionists, a daily dose of ground flaxseeds equals about ΒΌ cup or 1 - 3 tablespoons of flaxseed oil. Used in seed form, flaxseed can be sprinkled on yogurt or mixed into bread dough or other foods. Other convenient methods of adding flaxseed to your diet is with bread, pancake, and muffin mixes, or mixed into hot or cold cereals. Flaxseed oil makes it easy to stir into foods such as cottage cheese. If you do not like the taste or do not want to add it to your food, flaxseed oil is also available in soft gel capsules.


Flaxseed can spoil very quickly once it has been ground, so store in the refrigerator if you grind it. Whole flaxseed can be stored for up to two years if it is kept in a cool dry location out of the sunlight.


References and Other Resources:

Limon, Connie: "Three Simple Steps toward Breast Cancer Prevention"

American Cancer Society: "Flaxseed," American Cancer Society

Bio-Medicine: "Flaxseed may fight breast cancer in postmenopausal women," Bio-Medicine
 
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