Eating pomegranates and other fruits that contain certain phytochemicals have been found to reduce the occurrence of hormone-dependent breast cancers, according to results of a new study.
Pomegranate is enriched in a number of compounds known as ellagitannins that, as shown in this study, appear to be responsible for the protective effect of the pomegranate. These phytochemicals suppress estrogen production, a reproductive hormone found mainly in women, and as many breast cancers are estrogen-dependant, they help to stop the growth and spread of breast cancer cells and tumors.
Previous research has shown that pomegranate juice is high in antioxidant activity, which is attributed to the fruit's high polyphenol content. One of these polyphenols, ellagic acid found in pomegranates, inhibits aromatase, an enzyme that converts the hormone androgen into estrogen. Aromatase plays a key role in the development of breast cancer. This research examined whether phytochemicals in pomegranates can suppress aromatase and ultimately inhibit cancer growth.
After screening and examining 10 ellagitannin-derived compounds in pomegranates, the investigators found that those compounds had the potential to prevent estrogen-responsive breast cancers. One substance in particular, Urolithin B, significantly inhibited cell growth.
One scientist recommended that future studies focus on testing pomegranate juice for its effect on estrogen levels, menopausal symptoms, breast density or even as a cancer preventive agent:
"More research on the individual components and the combination of chemicals is needed to understand the potential risks and benefits of using pomegranate juice or isolated compounds for a health benefit or for cancer prevention,"
"This study does suggest that studies of the ellagitannins from pomegranates should be continued."
Until then, a leading US professor said people "might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development in the breast and perhaps in other tissues and organs."
Research paper details:
Adams LS, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Heber D, Chen S. Pomegranate Ellagitannin-Derived Compounds Exhibit Antiproliferative and Antiaromatase Activity in breast cancer Cells In vitro. Cancer Prev Res 2010 3: 108-113.