If you have been looking for a “super supplement” to reduce cancer risk, recent research suggests that grape seed extract just might be it. Three new studies published this year have shown that this supplement may profoundly reduce the risk of at least three major cancers: skin cancer (SCC), prostate cancer and hematologic cancers. This list is likely to expand as ongoing lab research is pointing to a protective role against several other cancers as well.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – 74% Risk Reduction
SCC is the second leading type of skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma, (the next most frequent being melanoma). Previous lab studies with mice showed that grape seed extract applied topically actually reduced skin damage when the mice were exposed to UV light, and implied a cancer-protective effect. But direct evidence in humans was only provided recently, by a case-control study carried out in northern California on 830 participants. The study found that users of this supplement had a 74% reduced risk of developing SCC. Multivitamin users also experienced 29% reduced risk of SCC, but this was considered to be borderline significant by the researchers. Other supplements taken by the participants included vitamins A, C, D, and E, none of which had a significant effect of SCC risk. It is interesting that some sunblock lotions are now formulated with grape seed oil, but you can’t assume this will protect you. The protective effect in this study came only with taking the supplement orally.
Prostate Cancer – 62% Risk Reduction
As with skin cancer, numerous laboratory studies have shown for years that grape seed extract directly induced programmed cell death of prostate cancer cells and also inhibited their growth via several pathways. The question always remained, however, if grape seed extract would be effective in suppressing prostate cancer in human patients. The answer appears to be ‘yes’ according to a very large study published recently. This study was conducted in Washington State on 35,239 men, and started in year 2000. It is known as the VITamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) cohort. The participants were aged 50-76 years, and all answered questionnaires about specialty supplement use for the 10 years prior to the start of the study. Of all the supplements taken, grape seen extract was by far the winner for protecting against prostate cancer. Men who reported using an individual grape seed extract supplement with “high average use” over 10 years saw a 62% reduction of prostate cancer risk compared to non-users, while “average users” saw a 41% risk reduction. Unfortunately, the dosage levels being used were not reported.
Hematologic Cancers – 43% Risk Reduction
Hematologic cancers include leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Several studies in the lab have already shown that grape seed extract can kill several lines of cultured human leukemia cells, however no studies were done yet on myeloma or lymphoma. This study also drew on the same VITAL cohort as above, but also included women in the analysis, which brought the population up to 66,227 participants. Those who had “ever used” grape seed supplements saw a 43% risk reduction for hematologic cancers. This was only matched by those with a high use of garlic, who saw a 47% reduction of risk. No other supplements offered significant protection.
Other cancers may soon be added to the list as research continues. Just as with the above cancers, early lab-scale research has already shown that grape seed extract can kill breast cancer, colon cancer, gioblastoma, and NSC lung cancer cells. The ultimate test of effectiveness in fighting cancer will come from clinical trials, and the above results are so recent there has not been time to initiate such trials. That’s not the case with breast cancer, however. Grape seed extract has been known as natural aromatase inhibiter for years, which makes it a logical choice to test against breast cancer. A Phase I clinical trial at the Mayo Clinic to test the effect of 200 mg – 800 mg daily dose on the estrogen levels in postmenopausal women has recently been concluded and should soon produce results. Until then, it is worthy to note that women in the VITAL cohort were indeed already assessed for breast cancer risk versus grape seed extract use. Although the supplement seemed to provide a 20% risk reduction for breast cancer, the researchers deemed the effect non-significant statistically. Ultimately we must wait for clinical trials to prove the effectiveness of this supplement in preventing and perhaps even treating the cancers mentioned above. But until then, the findings to date make a compelling case for including grape seed extract in any program or supplement regimen meant to reduce cancer risk.
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