The crimson pomegranate has a long-held reputation for suppression. In the myth of Persephone, her consumption of a few seeds led to all things on Earth to cease thriving. While the ancient Greeks used that tale to explain the changing seasons, City of Hope researchers may have found a different seed of truth as they discovered the fruit’s ability to stop and prevent certain breast cancers from growing.
In a study published in Cancer Prevention Research on Jan. 5, Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., director of City of Hope’s Division of Tumor Cell Biology, and his colleagues found that pomegranates contain six compounds that may prevent breast cancer growth by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgen to estrogen and is known to play a key role in hormone-dependent breast cancer.
Of these substances, one called urolithin B (UB) has the most powerful impact, inhibiting multiple estrogen-producing mechanisms that fuel the cancer’s growth. In an additional analysis, Chen and his team found that UB prevented the proliferation of estrogen-responsive breast cancer cells.
“By suppressing the production of estrogen, urolithin B and other phytochemicals found in pomegranates can prevent hormone-responsive breast cancer tumors from growing,” said Chen.
The other phytochemicals, naturally occurring plant compounds that may have a health benefit, in pomegranates found to inhibit aromatase activity are urolithin A (UA), methylated UA, acetylated UB, methylated UB and UB sulfate.
Previous research has shown pomegranate juice to be high in antioxidant activity and that its compounds can control breast and prostate cancer growth in humans.
“The results of this study suggest that pomegranate intake may be a viable strategy for preventing breast cancer,” said Chen.
The other researchers involved in this study are: Lynn Adams, Ph.D., from City of Hope and Yanjung Zhang, Ph.D., Navindra Seeram, Ph.D., and David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., from the David Geffen School of Medicine’s Center for Human Nutrition at University of California, Los Angeles.