Eating mushrooms and drinking green tea could protect against breast cancer, a study conducted jointly by The University of Western Australia and Zhejiang University in China has found.
Research Associate Professor Min Zhang, of UWA's School of Population Health, led the research team who examined the mushroom and tea consumption of more than 2,000 women aged from 20 to 87 in relatively affluent southeast China. Half of the women had confirmed breast cancer and the others were healthy women recruited from outpatient clinics.
"Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women worldwide and its rate is increasing in both developed and developing countries," Professor Zhang said.
In China, the incidence of the cancer is four or five times lower than in developed countries. The researchers, including UWA's Professor D'Arcy Holman and Zhejiang University's Dr Jian Huang and Professor Xing Xie, investigated whether this could be due to the use of dried and fresh mushrooms and green leaf tea in the traditional Chinese diet.
"Mushrooms and mushroom extracts have been shown to possess anticarcinogenic properties and to stimulate immune responsiveness," Dr Zhang said. "And it has been found fairly consistently in epidemiological research that green tea has anticarcinogenic effects against breast cancer."
By interviewing all the women about their consumption of mushrooms and tea, the researchers found that the most common mushroom species eaten were fresh white button mushrooms, Agaricus bisporus, and fragrant dried mushrooms, Lentinula edodes. Some of the women in the study consumed neither mushrooms nor green tea while others enjoyed both up to three times a day. The data were adjusted for factors such as physical activity, weight, menopause, alcohol consumption and smoking, including passive smoking.
"We found that the combination of dietary intake of mushrooms and green tea-drinking decreased breast cancer risk with an additional reduced effect on the malignance of cancer. Our findings, if confirmed consistently in other research, have potential implications for protection against breast cancer development using an inexpensive dietary intervention," Dr Zhang said.
Janine MacDonald (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 5563 / (+61 4) 32 637 716