Could Green Tea Provide a Cure for Cancer?
Cancer is a complex, devastating illness which is responsible for the deaths of millions of people each year. For decades, scientists have been attempting to uncover some of the secrets of cancer in order to find a cure. While, so far, a cure has been out of reach, there appear to be some natural remedies which can prevent or slow cancer growth. One of those remedies is a beverage which is commonplace in many Asian households–tea.
The History of an Anti-Cancer Tool
Tea has been a dietary staple for 500,000 years. People in India and China appear to be among the first to have enjoyed this beloved beverage. But it’s one variety in particular–Camellia sinensis–which appears to have a number of health benefits associated with it. That variety is also known as green tea.
What Makes Green Tea Special
Green tea is unique in that it is produced from unfermented leaves and it contains a high concentration of polyphenols, which are chemicals that can serve as antioxidants. Antioxidants are essentially on a search-and-destroy mission against free radicals, compounds which compromise DNA and destroy cells. Free radicals are often to blame for the development of cancer as well as heart disease. The antioxidants immobilize free radicals and inhibit the damage often associated with them.
Medicinal Uses of Green Tea
For years, Asians have used green tea to promote a healthy lifestyle. It helps to promote good digestion, improve concentration, and promote the excretion of urine. In addition, a number of studies in human beings, animals, and in laboratories suggest that green tea can be effective in combating a number of ailments.
Green Tea’s Effect on Cancer of the Pancreas and Colon
In an article entitled, “Green Tea Consumption and the Risk of Pancreatic and Colorectal Cancers,” researchers B.T. Ji, W.H. Chow, A.W. Hsing, J.K. McLaughlin, Q. Dai, Y.T. Gao, W.J. Blot, and J.F. Fraumeni, Jr. examined the question of green tea’s effectiveness as an antidote to certain types of cancers.
The Columbia University researchers conceded that the effect of green tea on cancer risk is uncertain, although a number of animal studies seem to indicate a positive effect.
In order to test the hypothesis that drinking green tea can, in fact, lessen cancer risk, the researchers conducted an extensive study in Shanghai, China in order to see whether green tea consumption had any impact on cancers of the colon, rectum, and pancreas.
The research team found that the greater the consumption of green tea, the lesser the risk of cancer. As a result, it appears that green tea may, in fact, lower the incidence of both colorectal and pancreatic cancers. Yet, it should be noted that other similar studies have produced conflicting results. As a result, scientists recommend additional research before a definitive statement can be made about green tea as a colorectal cancer prevention tool.
As far as pancreatic cancer is concerned, another study showed that those individuals who consumed the most green tea were far less likely to develop the disease. It appears that the reduced risk is most pronounced in women, who cut their pancreatic cancer rate in half by drinking large amounts of green tea.
In contrast, male green tea drinkers were 37 percent less likely to develop the disease. However, it should be noted that it is impossible to tell from this particular study whether green tea was solely responsible for cutting pancreatic cancer risk.
Green Tea and Other Cancers
But what about other cancers? How effective has green tea been in preventing other forms of the disease? To begin with, cancer rates are often lower in Japan and other nations where green tea consumption is high. Animal studies also indicate that the polyphenols in green tea are effective antioxidants which kill cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks.
A study of bladder cancer patients found that those who consumed green tea had a much better five-year survival rate than cancer patients who did not drink the beverage. In addition, animal studies appear to confirm that the chemicals in green tea stop the growth of breast cancer cells.
One study of nearly 500 women with breast cancer found that those who drank green tea did not see their cancer spread as much as those who did not consume green tea. Yet, those who were in the later stages of breast cancer who drank green tea saw little or no improvement in their condition.
Animal studies also indicate that green tea can prevent the growth of cancer cells in the esophagus. But studies in human beings have yielded mixed results. For instance, one study showed that green tea could help prevent esophageal cancer–especially in women, while another indicated that the tea could actually increase the incidence of such cancer.
Consequently, additional research is needed before scientists can determine conclusively whether green tea can act as a cancer preventative.
The effects of green tea on lung and prostate cancer remain unclear. However, the beverage does seem to prevent the onset of skin cancer. There is also some evidence to suggest that it can inhibit the growth of stomach cancer cells.
It appears that green tea may be effective in the fight against inflammatory bowel disease. This is significant because people who suffer from this disease are at a greater risk for colon cancer. Specifically, green tea appears to reduce the inflammation characteristic of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, two forms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Green Tea and Chemotherapy
There have been lab tests to indicate that green tea can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs such as doxorubicin and tamoxifen. But the positive effect has not yet been demonstrated in studies of human beings. In fact, green tea and green tea extracts are not recommended for prostate cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy.
The Final Word
Although scientific studies at this point are not altogether conclusive, there is strong evidence to suggest that green tea can be effective in preventing cancer. That may be particularly true for colorectal and pancreatic cancers. At this point, a number of doctors agree that, for most people, the health benefits of drinking green tea far outweigh the risks.