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Nicotine Induces Breast Cancer Cell Growth in Culture

Posted Mar 22 2010 8:13am
It is clear that smoking increases the risk for several cancers.  This increased risk of cancer from smoking has generally been thought to be due to chemicals that are produced when the tobacco is burned and which cause genetic alterations in cells causing them to become cancerous.  However, research in the last couple of years has suggested that nicotine might also be involved in breast cancer development and progression.  To learn more about this initial research, there is both a good news story to read and an interesting video to watch.

New breast cancer research looking at the mechanism by which nicotine might stimulate breast cancer development was recently published online .  This new cell culture study examined the role of a cell protein called Cyclin D3, which is involved in cell growth and has been shown to be elevated in breast tumor tissue.  The results of this study showed that (1) treatment of breast cancer cells with nicotine caused a substantial increase in Cyclin D3 and (2) blocking the site on the breast cancer cells where nicotine binds prevented the rise in Cyclin D3.

After determining that nicotine could stimulate breast cancer cell growth in this culture system, the breast cancer researchers tested the ability of a plant extract to block the breast cancer cell growth.  The results of this test showed that one of the major active compounds (Garcinol) from the fruit of the Kokum tree reduced the ability of nicotine to bind to the breast cancer cells and decreased the production of Cyclin D3.

This is interesting research into the ways that nicotine might stimulate breast cancer development and progression.  Based on this new research and the earlier research, it appears that nicotine might be able attach to sites on breast cancer cells and increase some cellular pathways that promote cell growth.  Perhaps just as importantly, this research suggests that the effects of nicotine might be blocked by a compound from a fruit in the mangosteen family.  Of course, it is important to remember that this study was done in a cell culture system, which can behave quite differently than real life situations.  Studies in animals and human clinical trials will still need to be run to determine if nicotine has the same effect in people and if these effects can be overcome.

Read my book Fight Now: Eat & Live Proactively Against Breast Cancer at to learn about lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your personal risk of breast cancer.
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