Mushrooms and cancer

Mushrooms and Breast or Prostate Cancer

Cancer statistics are never pretty. But the good news is research shows that 30 to 35 percent of all cancers can be prevented by eating well, being active and not being overweight.1 Along with physical activity and not smoking, healthy eating is one of the cornerstones for helping to prevent cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends choosing 5 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day to reap the benefits of their disease-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals. As they are low in calories and fat, have very little carbohydrate and provide some fibre, fresh mushrooms are a delicious way to eat healthy. In addition, emerging research also suggests that mushrooms and mushroom extracts may have potent anticancer activity, against both breast and prostate cancer.

Fresh Mushrooms Can Help!

Altered aromatase activity
  • Conjugated linoleic acid extracted from mushrooms may slow down the activity of aromatase, an enzyme that is needed for making estrogen. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, high levels of estrogen are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.(2,3)
Benefits of Beta-Glucans
  • Beta-glucans, a type of carbohydrate, found in Maitake mushrooms (hen-of-the-woods) destroyed human prostatic cancers cells in a laboratory setting.4
  • While this is good news, we need a lot more research before we can make any specific recommendations. In the meantime, it’s a smart idea to enjoy a variety of mushrooms more often.
Strength in Selenium
  • Researchers in the Netherlands found that men who ate the most selenium in their diet had a 31% lower risk of developing prostate cancer.5
  • Eating foods rich in selenium may also lower the likelihood of developing prostate cancer and slow prostate cancer tumor progression according to results from the Physicians’ Health Study.6
Mushrooms Make a Difference
  • Mix in ½ cup chopped crimini mushrooms into stuffing. Benefit: add 18 micrograms of selenium (26% of the Daily Value).7
  • Add some pizzazz to chili or lasagna by adding 1 cup sliced white button mushrooms. Benefit: add 9 micrograms of selenium (13% of the Daily Value).7
  • Toss ½ cup sliced shiitake mushrooms into stir-fries. Benefit: add 18 micrograms of selenium (26% of the Daily Value).7

For more about cancer prevention visit the Canadian Cancer Society.

  1. Canadian Cancer Society website.
  2. Grube BJ, Eng ET, Kao YC, Kwon A and Chen S. White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation. J Nutr 2001;131:3288-3293.
  3. American Institute for Cancer Research, e-newsletter March 2007
  4. Fullerton SA, Samadi AA, Tortorelis DG et al. Induction of apoptosis in human prostatic cancer cells with beta-glucan (Maitake mushroom polysaccharide.) Mol Urol 2000;41:7-13.
    van den Brandt PA, Zeegers MPA, Bode P and Goldbohm RA. Toenail selenium levels and the subsequent risk of prostate cancer: A
  5. Prospective Cohort Study. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2003;12:866-871.
  6. Li H, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci EL et al. A Prospective Study of Plasma Selenium Levels and Prostate Cancer Risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2004;96(9):696-703.
  7. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 28, released September 2015, slightly revised May 2016)

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