"Women should continue consuming a healthy diet," Salman Hyder says. "Fruits and vegetables most likely contain other protective compounds, and there is no data to suggest that these items are harmful. However, we do not recommend that women who are on hormone replacement therapy with a progestin component ingest pure apigenin as a supplement until further research proves otherwise." (Credit: iStockphoto)

breast cancer

Celery compound may pose cancer risk for women on HRT

Women receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should not ingest pure apigenin—found in celery, parsley, and apples—because the compound may lead to a higher incidence of cancerous tumors.

The finding is a reversal from an earlier recommendation in which researchers found that apigenin could reduce the incidence of tumor growth in women receiving HRT.

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Hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed to reduce the effects of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in women.

HRT research and clinical trials have indicated a higher incidence of tumors, especially breast cancer, in post-menopausal women who take synthetic hormones; therefore, doctors have become more reluctant to prescribe the treatment.

Now, a new study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer shows that when apigenin is ingested in a diet at the same concentration that subjects received during IV injections in previous studies, the benefits were reversed leading to a higher incidence of cancerous tumors in subjects receiving progestin.

“Typically, hormone replacement therapies improve the lives of menopausal women and achieve very good results,” says Salman Hyder, professor in tumor angiogenesis and of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri.

Tumor trigger

“However, research has proven that in women receiving therapies that involve a combination of the natural component estrogen and the synthetic progestin, a higher incidence of breast cancer tumors can occur.”

Many women normally have benign lesions in breast tissue. These lesions don’t typically form tumors until they receive the “trigger” that attracts blood vessels to cells, essentially feeding the lesions causing them to form and expand. In this case, progestin is the trigger.

Hyder’s previous research focused on identifying natural supplements containing compounds that lessen the likelihood of tumor development and growth.

During the new study, laboratory rats were divided into four groups. Two groups were placed on a controlled diet; the other two were given a diet supplemented with apigenin. The mice that ingested apigenin through their diets were found to have a higher incidence of tumor growth.

Healthy diet still important

“We know that apigenin is effective when injected directly into the bloodstream, so intravenous supplements may still be a possibility,” Hyder says.

“However, the mice that ingested apigenin began metabolizing it—which seemed to aggravate the situation causing very aggressive growth of mammary tumors.

“Women should continue consuming a healthy diet,” Hyder says. “Fruits and vegetables most likely contain other protective compounds, and there is no data to suggest that these items are harmful.

“However, we do not recommend that women who are on hormone replacement therapy with a progestin component ingest pure apigenin as a supplement until further research proves otherwise.

“Until we know how apigenin is metabolized and interact with progestin effects, we cannot recommend that women supplement their hormone replacement therapy with this compound.”

Source: University of Missouri

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