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Flax and its Ability to Prevent Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the few cancers that affect only men, because only men have prostate glands. Although small — about the size of a walnut, and hard to get at — located just below the bladder inside the anus, the prostate is an important part of the male urogenital system.


The prostate has two important functions. First it helps to control the rate at which urine flows out of the bladder and into the urethra. Secondly, the prostate gland makes a whitish glandular secretion which collects within the prostate and is fed into the urethra during ejaculation. Sadly prostate cancer is one of the more common cancers in men. However, a recent publication indicates that including flax in the diet may be a way of preventing prostate cancer.

A team at Duke University has used a transgenic mouse that has been produced to develop prostate cancer to study the effect of adding flax to the diet. The mice were fed either a control diet (no flax) or a diet containing 5% flax. 100% of the mice fed the control diet developed prostate cancer versus 97% of the mice in the flaxseed group. The tumor/urogenital weight was 3.6 +/- 0.4 g in the controls versus 1.9 +/- 0.2 g in the flaxseed-treated mice. After 30 weeks on the diets, the flaxseed-treated mice had significantly less aggressive tumors than did the controls.

The active ingredient in flax that may be responsible for the protective effect against prostate cancer is still unclear. Lignans and alpha-linolenic acid are found abundantly in flaxseed, and both have been implicated in cancer prevention — especially breast cancer.

The Duke report which demostrated the protective effect of flax in a animal model is a major advancement in the battle against prostate cancer. The identification of the active ingredient in flax that prevents prostate cancer is the next step. Meanwhile, adding flax to the diet would be prudent.

Chemical Structure of Lignans



Effect of flaxseed supplementation on prostatic carcinoma in transgenic mice

Urology 2002;60(5):919-24.

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