Women who get plenty of mushrooms and green tea in their diets may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, suggest new study findings from University of Western Australia in Perth.
The study, of more than 2,000 Chinese women, found that the more fresh and dried mushrooms the women ate, the lower was their breast cancer risk. The risk was lower still among those who also drank green tea every day.
It's known that the rate of breast cancer in China is four- to five- times lower than rates typically seen in developed countries -- though the rate has been climbing over the past few decades in the most affluent parts of China.
The current findings suggest that traditional diets -- and specifically, large quantities of mushrooms and green tea -- may help explain China's lower breast cancer incidence.
The study was conducted in southeast China and involved 1,009 breast cancer patients between the ages of 20 and 87, and an equal number of healthy women the same age. All completed a detailed dietary questionnaire that asked them how often they ate specific foods.
Overall, the research team found, women who ate the most fresh mushrooms -- 10 grams or more per day -- were about two thirds less likely to develop breast cancer than those who did not eat mushrooms. Meanwhile, women who ate 4 grams or more of dried mushrooms per day had half the cancer risk of non-consumers.
Finally, mushroom eaters who also drank green tea everyday had only 11 to 18 percent of the breast cancer risk of women who consumed neither.
The scientists did account for several kinds of risk factors for breast cancer -- such as the women's weight, education level, and exercise frequency and smoking habits -- but there could be other factors that explain the findings.
Lab research has shown that mushroom extracts have anti-tumour properties and, in animals, can stimulate the immune system's cancer defences. For its part, green tea contains antioxidant compounds called polyphenols that have been shown to fight breast tumours in animals.
The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer, March 15, 2009.
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