Mushrooms For Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer can take decades to develop, so early detection via mammogram may be too late. The breast cancer you may feel one day as a lump in the shower, may have started 20 years ago.  We now suspect that all the epithelial cancers: breast, colon, lung, pancreas, prostate, ovarian—the ones that cause the vast majority of cancer deaths—take up to 20 years or more to manifest. By the time it’s picked up it may have already been growing, maturing, scheming for years, acquiring hundreds of new survival-of-the-fittest mutations to grow even quicker and better undermine our immune system. Early detection may in effect be really, really late detection.

People are considered “healthy” until they show symptoms, so if we’ve been harboring a malignancy for 20 years we may feel all right, but we haven’t been. Thus, many people who do the right thing and improve their diet in hopes of preventing cancer may, at that very moment, be treating it as well. In this way, cancer prevention and treatment may sometimes be the same thing.

What new developments are there are in the battle against breast cancer? Well, most breast tumors are estrogen receptor positive, meaning they respond to estrogen; estrogen makes them grow. The problem for tumors in postmenopausal women is that there isn’t much estrogen around—unless of course you take it in a drug like Premarin (so-named because it’s made from pregnant mare urine). Premarin appears to increase the risk of breast cancer (as well as strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots). Unfortunately, the plant-based bioidentical hormone replacement therapies don’t appear any safer (see my 4-min. video Plant-Based Bioidentical Hormones).

Thankfully millions of women stopped taking Premarin in 2002, and we saw a nice dip in breast cancer rates. Unfortunately, those rates have since stagnated. Hundreds of thousands of American women continue to get that dreaded diagnosis every year. So what next? Well, with no estrogen around, many breast tumors devise a nefarious plan—they’ll just make their own! Seventy percent of breast cancer cells synthesize estrogen themselves using an enzyme called aromatase. In response, drug companies have produced a number of aromatase inhibitor drugs that are used as chemotherapy agents. Of course by the time you’re on chemo it can be too late, so researchers started screening hundreds of natural dietary components in hopes of finding something that targets this enzyme.

Now to do this, you need a lot of human tissue—where are you going to get it from? To study skin, for example, researchers use discarded human foreskins from circumcision. They’re just being thrown away–might as well use them. Where are you going to get discarded female tissue? Placentas. Human placentas. They got a bunch of women to donate their placentas after giving birth to further this critical line of research.

After years of searching, they found seven vegetables with significant anti-aromatase activity. You can see the graph in my video Vegetables Versus Breast Cancer. Bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, celery, green onions, and spinach dropped aromatase activity by about 20%, but mushrooms forced down the estrogen-producing enzyme more than 60%. Which mushroom works best, though? Woodear, crimini, oyster, Italian brown, enoki, button, stuffing, shiitake, chanterelle, or Portobello mushrooms? Don’t even try to guess—you won’t get it! Click on the above video pick for the answer.

More on the magic of mushrooms in Making Our Arteries Less Sticky and Constructing a Cognitive Portfolio. Probably a good idea to cook them, though: Toxins in Raw Mushrooms.

I also have videos on breast cancer risk in relation to apples, broccoli, exercise, flax seeds, green tea, greens, meat, melatonin, saturated fat, soy, and trans fat.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: randomduck / flickr

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Eating Green to Prevent Cancer
How Much Soy Is Too Much?


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Leena K.
Leena K3 years ago

I have always eaten mushrooms not specially white mushrooms so this is very interesting information, thanks.

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog3 years ago

Thanks for sharing, very interesting!

Fiona T.
Fi T3 years ago

It's bacteria helping again

Judith C.
Judith Ciccone3 years ago

Should mushrooms be eaten raw or cooked?

Melissa Reincastle

That's awesome :)

a             y m.
g d c3 years ago


Cindy Wade
Cindy W3 years ago

Got too wordy and got cut off...

I don't believe this is a coincidence. I'll never know for sure but I do wish that doctors would provide this information to women. It could be crucial in savings lives...

Cindy Wade
Cindy W3 years ago

I eat mushrooms 4-5 times a week - always have. Unfortunately, it didn't prevent me from getting breast cancer at the age of 44. And contrary to what this article says, many women, including myself, who are diagnosed with breast cancer are triple negative which means that hormones estrogen and progesterone and the protein Her2/neu do not cause the tumours to grow.

In addition to the information in this article, I would like to point out something that I read about and then researched a few months ago and I was very surprised that we don't read more about it.
Elevated iron levels after menopause may put women at risk for breast cancer. Before menopause, extra iron is shed through menstrual bleeding. After menopause, iron accumulates in your body, potentially leading to iron overload. Studies have shown there is a connection between elevated iron levels and an increased rate of breast cancer in post menopausal women. All women should have their iron levels tested when they stop they menstrual bleeding and if it's too high, it can be corrected. This was particularly interesting for me as I found out I was anemic one year prior to my breast cancer diagnosis when I went for blood work prior to having a hysterectomy. I did an agressive treatment 6 months of ferrous gluconate along with lupron shots to shut down my ovaries prior to my hysterectomy. Three months later, I found the lump (2.5 cm) and one month later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I don't believe this is a

Cheyenne Thunderbird

Mushrooms habe so many vitamins and different minerals which people need and eating them is healthy if you know the mushrooms and don't take poisonous ones.