Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants (“phyto” means “plant”). They are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and other plants. Some of these phytochemicals are believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to breast cancer treatment. As early as 1980, the National Cancer Institute Chemoprevention Program of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control began evaluating phytochemicals for safety, efficacy, and applicability for preventing and treating diseases. Researchers have long known that there are phytochemicals present for protection in plants, but it has only been recently that they are being recommended for protection against human disease.
Types of Phytochemicals for Breast Cancer
Flavonoids are found in most plant material. Green and black tea contains about 25% percent flavonoids. Other important sources of flavonoids are apple (quercetin), citrus fruits (rutin and hesperidin),. The flavonoids in soybeans, chickpeas, and licorice may act a little bit like estrogen, a hormone that might affect the risk of breast cancer that depends on estrogen for its growth. The estrogen-like compounds in these plants are called phytoestrogens.
Ajoene – Ajoene is a chemical compound available from garlic (Allium sativum). It functions as an antioxidant, by inhibiting the release of superoxide. Ajoene also has antithrombotic (anti-clotting) properties, which helps prevent platelets in the blood from forming blood clots, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke in humans. Ajoene is also known to have effective broad-spectrum antimicrobial (antibacterial and antifungal) properties, helpful in preventing yeast infection (Candida albicans) and treating athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), for example. Ajoene has even been shown effective in inhibiting tumor cell growth by targeting the microtubule cytoskeleton of such cells.
Anthocyanins can be found in numerous plants, but high levels are present in acai, backcurrant, blueberry, bilberry, cherry, red grape and purple corn. Studies have shown that anthocyanins may act as anti-cancer agents by inhibit promotion and progression of tumor cells by stopping the growth of pre-malignant cells, increasing the apoptosis of cancer cells and inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels that nourish tumors
Antioxidants are found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, corn, carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, soybeans, cantaloupe, oranges, spinach, nuts, lettuce, celery, liver, fish oil, seeds, grains, kale, beets, red peppers, potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, and black and green tea. As a rule, dark-colored fruits and vegetables have more antioxidants than other fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals.
Capsaicin is an alkaloid irritating to the skin and mucous membranes, the pungent active principle in capsicum, used as the active ingredient in a cream as a counterirritant and topical analgesic. Capsaicin is the active component of chilli peppers (Capsicum). It is an irritant to mammalian epithelial cells and produces a burning sensation in the mouth, which some people enjoy. Plants produce the compound to deter predation. Capsaicin is used in topical ointments used to relieve the pain of peripheral neuropathy (for example post-herpetic neuralgia).
Carotenoids, which give carrots, yams, cantaloupe, squash, and apricots their orange color, may help reduce the risk of cancer. Anthocyanins, which give grapes, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries their dark color, have been shown in the laboratory to have anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. There are two kinds of carotenoids: Beta carotene, lutein and lycopene.
Dietary fiber is the component in food not broken down by native enzymes and secretions of the gastrointestinal tract but which may be metabolized by the bacteria in the lower gut. Dietary fiber is widely recognized an important part of the treatment and prevention of diabetes, colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity.Soluble fiber is found in some fruits (particularly oranges, also apples and bananas), oats, legumes, (peas, soybeans, and other beans), other vegetables, such as broccoli and carrots, and psyllium seed.
Sulfides, found in garlic and onions, may strengthen the immune system. Sulfides are excellent at lowering the incidence of a number of different kinds of cancer and they also lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood.
Phytochemicals Research Links
Nutrition and Cancer Prevention: New Insights into the Role of Phytochemicals
Potential Synergy of Phytochemicals in Cancer Prevention: Mechanism of Action
Potential of spice-derived phytochemicals for cancer prevention.
Phytochemicals from Cruciferous Plants Protect against Cancer by Modulating Carcinogen Metabolism