Postmenopausal women who have taken synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. More than 100 women die every day from breast cancer in the U.S. alone.
Researchers from the University of Missouri now believe that luteolin, a natural compound found in celery and other foods could reduce that risk. [i]
Their study published in the journal Springer Plus found that luteolin was protective against breast tumors that are accelerated by progestin, a synthetic form of the natural hormone progesterone.
Progestin is typically given to women taking HRT to prevent endometrial cancer. But the famous Women’s Health Initiative study established that women on synthetic HRT had significantly higher rates of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots in their veins and lungs.
The study resulted in decreased use of synthetic HRT. Since then researchers have seen breast cancer rates drop by 7% as the use of progestin fell out of favor. Even so, an estimated 1.6 million women still take HRT with synthetic progestin to relieve menopause symptoms.
Previous studies have found that medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), a widely-used form of progestin increases the development of blood vessels needed to fuel tumor growth (angiogenesis). MPA increases vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in human breast cancer cells, supporting cell growth. By increasing VEGF, progestins increase cell proliferation and metastasis.
The researchers found that luteolin reduced angiogenesis, i.e. it reduced the blood vessels that feed breast cancer cells. It also increased the rate of apoptosis or programmed cell death of the cells.
One of the authors explained that most older women normally have benign lesions in their breast tissue. But these lesions don’t form tumors until they receive a trigger – e.g. progestin – that attracts blood vessels to feed the lesions. Their study showed “evidence that luteolin has the potential to disrupt angiogenesis and thereby prevent the growth development of progestin-driven tumors.”
Luteolin also inhibited breast cancer cells from developing into cancer stem cells that make cancer more deadly. Human and animal studies show that progestins stimulate breast cancer metastasis to lymph nodes. They enrich the stem cell-like population of cancer cells, enabling tumors to grow and metastasize. [Learn more about foods that inhibit cancer stem cells]
The researchers are now looking at whether luteolin injections might be used to treat progestin-dependent breast cancer. In the meantime, they encouraged women to continue eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables that contain luteolin.
Luteolin is a flavonoid found in more than 300 plant species. It’s a potent antioxidant. It’s been shown to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. It also promotes nerve and muscle function.
Luteolin may also
- protect against liver fibrosis
- help prevent oxidation of cholesterol
- inhibit bone breakdown in osteoporosis
- protect against neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s
- improve cognitive function
- reduce anxiety
- provide a therapeutic option for multiple sclerosis.
Other good sources include artichokes, peppers, olive oil, celeriac, and lemons. You can also get luteolin from spinach, rutabagas, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and beets.
Other herbs containing luteolin include rosemary, mint, peppermint, basil, sage, and chamomile.
For more information visit GreenMedInfo’s page on luteolin.
[i] Matthew T. Cook, Yayun Liang, Cynthia Besch-Williford, Sandy Goyette, Benford Mafuvadze, Salman M. Hyder. “Luteolin inhibits progestin-dependent angiogenesis, stem cell-like characteristics, and growth of human breast cancer xenografts.” SpringerPlus, 2015; 4 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s40064-015-1242-x
Margie King is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. A Wharton M.B.A. and corporate attorney for 20 years, she left the world of business to pursue her passion for all things nutritious. Margie is the author of Nourishing Menopause: The Whole Food Guide to Balancing Your Hormones Naturally. She is also a professional copywriter and natural health, beauty and nutrition writer. To contact Margie, visit www.IntegrativeMenopause.com.
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