How Pomegranate May Protect Against Cancer
By Lynn Dicurie
Pomegranates are best known for their ability to improve arterial health. Accumulating data have demonstrated that pomegranate has cancerprotective properties as well.1-3 Some of the most promising findings on pomegranate extracts show their ability to impede progression of prostate cancer. Additional studies indicate that pomegranate may protect against breast and colon cancer as well.4,5 Dietary factors are increasingly recognised as playing a role in cancer development. More than 70% of certain malignancies—like colorectal cancer—are related to diet and lifestyle factors.6 Studies show that high fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with lower cancer incidence.6 That’s especially true when diets include large amounts of polyphenols from specific plant foods.7 The challenge is that, while adding polyphenol-rich foods to our diets is beneficial, it doesn’t always provide enough polyphenols to exert a meaningful effect on prevention.6 That’s where pomegranate extracts may play a crucial role.
Pomegranate Slows Prostate Cancer Progression
The most promising studies on pomegranate’s anti-cancer actions are on its ability to slow the progression of prostate cancer. In prostate-cancer patients, serum PSA levels are the most commonly used marker to assess disease status. One standard for evaluating cancer progression is to measure the time it takes for PSA levels to double from a baseline value. The longer it takes for PSA to double, the slower the cancer is progressing.8 Studies show that supplementation with pomegranate juice or extracts can significantly increase the time it takes for PSA to double in men with prostate cancer. In one study, men received 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily following surgery or radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Prior to treatment, the subjects’ PSA doubled in an average of 15 months, indicating quite rapid disease progression. But after treatment with pomegranate juice, PSA took an average of 54 months to double its value, which is a clinically and statistically significant difference.9 Another study evaluated men with recurrent prostate cancer (which is cancer that comes back after treatment such as surgery). In this study, taking pomegranate extract daily for up to 18 months increased the time it took for PSA to double from 11.9 months at baseline to 18.5 months.10 These studies offer evidence of pomegranate’s ability to slow down the progression of prostate cancer.