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Flaxseeds come from tall, slender flax plants, and have a warm, nutty flavor. About the size of sesame seeds, flaxseeds are packed with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Finely ground flaxseed flour is easy to find year-round at any grocery store, and can be easily blended into orange juice, protein shakes, or baked products like bran muffins. Supplement pills are also available.

Flaxseeds are special for breast tissues, not only because they contain fiber and omega-3’s, but also special substances called “lignans” that exert protective effects. One animal study documented that flaxseed suppressed breast cancer growth and metastasis by 45% [1]. Human studies also have shown that women with breast cancer have much lower levels of lignans in their bodies compared to women without breast cancer. A key study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention reported that a high blood level of lignans was associated with a 58% reduction of breast cancer risk [2]. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported a 17% reduction in breast cancer for women with the highest lignan intake [3].

In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women consuming about 1 ounce of flaxseed daily had lower levels of toxic estrogen metabolites that harm breast tissues [4].

Pilot studies in humans with active breast cancer have shown that flaxseeds reduce tumor growth [5] and reduce breast tissue density [6]. Remember that increased breast tissue density is a known risk factor for cancer.

Flaxseeds also have anti-inflammatory, bone, blood pressure, diabetic, immune, and cholesterol benefits. Flaxseed can also reduce hot flashes. I take a flax lignan supplement supplying 50 milligrams of lignans daily.

References:

1. Chen J, Stavro PM, Thompson LU. Dietary flaxseed inhibits human breast cancer growth and metastasis and downregulates expression of insulin-like growth factor and epidermal growth factor receptor. Nutrition and Cancer 2002; 43:187-192.

2. Piller R, Chang-Claude J, Linseisen J. Plasma enterolactone and gensitein and the risk of premenopausal breast cancer. European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2006; 15:225-232.

3. Touillaud MS, Thiebaut ACM, Fournier A, Niravong M, Boutron-Ruault M-C, Clavel-Chapelon F. Dietary lignan intake and postmenopausal breast cancer risk by estrogen and progesterone receptor status. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2007; 99:475-486.

4. Brooks JD, Ward WE, Lewis JE, Hilditch J, Nickell L, Wong E, Thompson LU. Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2004; 79; 318-325.

5. Thompson LU, Chen JM, Li T, Strasser-Weippl K, Goss PE. Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research 2005; 11:3828-3835.

6. Nagel G, Mack U, von Fournier D, Linseisen J. Dietary phytoestrogen intake and mammographic density – results of a pilot study. European Journal of Medical Research 2005;

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