Red Wine Ingredient Slows Growth of Breast Cancer Cells, Study Finds

Red Wine Could Help Slow Breast Cancer: Study

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown for

There’s been some research linking alcohol to increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially when a woman consumes two or more drinks per day. But a new report in the October 2011 issue of the FASEB journal says resveratrol, the magic ingredient thought to be responsible for so many of red wine’s health benefits, can actually stop breast cancer cells from growing by blocking the growth effects of estrogen.

During your menstrual cycle, estrogen generally triggers the proliferation of cells in the inner lining of your breasts’ milk glands. Providing you don’t get pregnant, these estrogen levels subsequently drop at the end of your cycle, and those milk gland cells deteriorate and die. Because estrogen can’t really tell the difference between normal cells and cancerous cells, though, it will cause cancerous cells to spread just like it would with regular cells. Many drugs used to treat breast cancer, then, are aimed at selectively blocking the effect of estrogen.

In this recent study, researchers treated breast cancer cells with resveratrol and compared their growth to untreated cells. The growth of those cells treated with resveratrol ended up being significantly reduced; tests showed this cell growth reduction was due to resveratrol drastically reducing estrogen receptor levels.

“These findings are exciting, but in no way does it mean that should people go out and start using red wine or resveratrol supplements as a treatment for breast cancer,” said Dr. Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal. “What it does mean, however, is that scientists haven’t finished distilling the secrets of good health that have been hidden in natural products such as red wine.”

Another study, being conducted by UK research scientists, is looking at the effect of beta blockers -- drugs normally used to treat high cholesterol and anxiety -- on breast cancer. Beta blockers may prevent the movement of cells and therefore slow the metastasis, or spread, of breast cancer cells, they say. Early research on beta blockers for breast cancer has been promising, but there are no firm results yet.

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