Women who develop breast cancer, and whose tumours were estrogen receptor positive (ER+) are usually put on aromatase inhibiting drugs such as Femara or Arimidex for around 5 years after finishing their radiation and/or chemotherapy. These drugs do reduce the risk of cancer recurrence, but their side-effects (hot flushes, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, mood disturbances, vaginal dryness and hair loss, to name a few) can be so severe that many women cannot tolerate them for the recommended period (2).
In contrast, the only side-effects of eating mushrooms, as far as I'm aware, are improving your overall nutrition and enhancing the flavour of your meals! Dr Shen points out that "You don't need a strong effect to cause cancer prevention. Eating 100 grams or even less of mushrooms per day could have an effect on preventing new breast cancers." The cost comparisons are most revealing: aromatase inhibiting drugs cost $200-$300 per month (subsidised by the PBS in Australia) while eating 100 g of mushrooms per day costs around $30 per month, or less if you grow them yourself. So, don't expect to see any drug companies funding research comparing the aromatase-inhibiting effect of drugs vs mushrooms, any time soon!
Without such trials, no one could recommend that women who are currently taking aromatase inhibitors to prevent breast cancer recurrence should go off their drugs and just eat mushrooms instead. But adding a daily portion of mushrooms to your diet may boost the effect of the drugs, and is certainly a good option when you finish your course of aromatase inhibitors.
Aromatase is also expressed by liver, lung, and colon cancers (3), so the implications of Dr Shen's findings are extremely broad-ranging.
Dr Chen's research team has also found that mushroom extract, and a mushroom constituent called conjugated linoleic acid, caused prostate cancer cells that were growing in a culture medium, to stop growing and then to commit suicide ('apoptosis'). Furthermore, in mice who had been implanted with prostate cancer, the tumours shrank when the mice were treated with mushroom extract, and analysis of the genes within the tumour cells showed that the mushroom extract had caused significant changes in the expression of genes involved in cell death, growth and proliferation, lipid (fat) metabolism, energy production and immune response (4).
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Australia today. Whether you're simply concerned about reducing your risk of developing cancer, or have already had it and are aiming to prevent recurrence, adding mushrooms to your daily diet is a readily available and highly affordable strategy. My recipes for creamed mushrooms and greens and creamy cauliflower and mushroom soup also make it delicious!
I have been designing personalised eating plans for people wanting to reduce their risk of cancer, or recurrence of cancer, for many years. Aside from mushrooms, many other foods have aromatase inhibiting and other anticancer activity. Contact me today to learn more about how I can help you with an anti-cancer eating plan, or make a booking online.