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Making Mouths Smile: Green Tea may Help Prevent Oral Cancer, Researchers Say

by: Frank Mangano

(NaturalNews) Green tea lovers like to grab a steaming hot cup of the stuff because it tastes so good in their mouth; now, they can grab it because it's so good for their mouth. According to a study recently published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, people with precancerous oral lesions were able to slow the progression of those lesions by taking a potent green tea extract. What's more, the extracts caused some of the participants' lesions to disappear entirely.

To test the green tea extracts' effectiveness, University of Texas researchers had 41 leukoplakia participants take one of three things (actually, one of four, if you count the placebo group) over the course of 12 weeks: 1000 mg of green tea extract, 750 mg of green tea extract, or 500 mg of green tea extract. They took their allotted amount three times per day. At the conclusion of those three months, the researchers took oral tissue samples from each of the participants for another 12 weeks to see if there was any lessening of the lesions.

Of those taking the highest dose (i.e., 1000 mg), the University of Texas researchers saw a lessening or disappearing of the lesions in 60 percent of the participants. People taking 750 mg also experienced a significant lessening (again, approximately 60 percent of the participants). Of those people taking the lowest green tea extract dose (i.e., 500 mg, three times per day), just over 35 percent experienced lesion diminishment.

Leukoplakia is a condition where patchy, scaly splotches form inside the mouth, typically on the tongue or on the membrane that lines the inner cheek. Though leukoplakia is treatable and the splotches that characterize the condition are more often than not benign, many people that develop oral cancer see these lesions form prior to oral cancer diagnosis. All of the participants in this study had at least one cancerous lesion at the study's outset.

As is typical with researchers' commenting on their findings, they downplayed them, saying that "more research must be done before we can conclude that green tea may prevent oral or any other type of cancer." Nevertheless, the researchers still called their findings "significant," and that a larger, longer-term study will better determine just how cancer-preventive green tea extracts in fact are.

A 2003 study on green tea found that its extracts, believed to be EGCG and ECG, inhibit cancer from forming by "shutting down" the molecules cancer-causing agents (like tobacco) rely on.

The National Institutes of Health estimate that 35,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer every year, accounting for about two percent of all cancers. As with most cancers, the likelihood of survival is contingent on when it's diagnosed. Because more than half of oral cancers are diagnosed when it's progressed to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is approximately 50 percent.

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