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Apples and Pomegranates Might Help Fight Breast Cancer*

Posted Mar 07 2011 10:54am
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" seems as old as time, though its first recorded version was apparently in Wales in 1866 as "eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread".  No matter where and when this proverb originated, the health benefits of apples remain as true today as they have in the past.  In fact recent research has suggested that eating apples might have breast cancer protective benefits.

In a new breast cancer study, researchers explored the effects of an apple peel extract on breast cancer cell growth [1].  For this study, breast cancer researchers cultured two types of MCF-7 breast cancer cells and treated them with an apple peel extract made from Gala apples.  The results of these experiments showed that
  • The apple peel extract reduced breast cancer cell growth by stopping the cell cycle
  • Treatment with the apple peel extract also reduced the survival of these breast cancer cells.
  • Treatment of breast cancer cells with the apple peel extract stimulated the production of maspin, a tumor suppressor protein that inhibits breast cancer invasion and metastasis.
These study results show the potential importance of apples as a cancer fighting food.  Not only did the apple peel extract used in this study reduce breast cancer cell growth directly, it enhanced the production of a tumor suppressor protein.  Both of these functions have the potential to reduce breast cancer risk.  Previous research in animals has also shown that feeding an apple extract reduced breast cancer tumor burden (fewer tumors of a less aggressive type).  Apples are rich in a number of phytonutrients such as quercetin, catechin, chlorogenic acid, and phloridzin; however, these phytonutrients are found at the highest concentrations in the apple peel.  Therefore, it is important to eat the peel as well as the apple pulp.  While more research will need to be done to see how beneficial apples are for fighting breast cancer in humans, apples are a good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber and make an excellent choice to add to any healthy diet. 

The Power of the Pomegranate

The pomegranate has a long history of cultivation and research over the last few years has suggested that pomegranate consumption might have a variety of health benefits.  These benefits appear to be related to the phytochemicals present in the pomegranate, which have been reported to have strong antioxidant properties.  New research with breast cancer cells suggests that some of the compounds in pomegranates might help protect against breast cancer.

In this new study, breast cancer researchers examined the ability of pomegranate phytochemicals (ellagic acid, gallagic acid, urolithin A, urolithin B, and others) to inhibit aromatase activity, an enzyme responsible for estrogen production, and to inhibit breast cancer cell growth in a cell culture system [2].  Of the 10 pomegranate compounds tested, 6 were able to inhibit the aromatase enzyme to some degree, with urolithin B showing the greatest ability to inhibit aromatase.  Urolithin B also prevented breast cancer cell growth to the greatest extent.

While this is interesting research, it is important to remember that this was done in a cell culture system and not in human volunteers.  Despite this study limitation, this is still promising breast cancer research that will hopefully be explored in more detail in the future. While more breast cancer research needs to be done, the antioxidant benefits of the pomegranate makes it an excellent fruit to add to one's diet.

Please let your family and friends know they can download a FREE copy of my breast cancer reduction book at and sign up for free weekly breast cancer research updates.

  1. Reagan-Shaw S, Eggert D, Mukhtar H, Ahmad N.  Antiproliferative effects of apple peel extract against cancer cells. Nutrition and Cancer 2010; 62:517 – 524.
  2. 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.
Discuss this information with your doctor to determine what is right for you. This information does not take the place of your doctor's professional advice, nor does it substitute for prescription medication, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or any other medical treatment. Unless specified otherwise, risk reductions are reported as relative risks or odds ratios in human clinical, animal studies, or lab culture studies. Fight Now™ is a trademark of Aaron Tabor, MD. FIGHT NOW is not associated with, or endorsed by, Johns Hopkins. ©2011 Aaron Tabor MD. All Rights Reserved.
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