Olive Oil: The Breast Cancer Killer?

Enjoy olive oil

The consumption of olive oil has been touted as a great method to decrease the risk of certain chronic diseases like heart disease. However, there is some new evidence that the consumption of olive oil may also lead to a decreased risk of developing breast cancer.

A new study on women at greater risk of breast cancer is being done at the Houston Methodist Cancer Centre in the U.S. and is looking at the association between the degree of breast density and the consumption of olive oil. A chemical contained within olive oil, known as hydroxytyrosol, is being used in a group of adult women to monitor the effects upon breast density after one year.

“We know there is a correlation between breast density and breast cancer. A decrease in density of one percent can potentially translate into a nearly two percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer,” said the study author. “Our hope is to be able to offer women a supplement to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. We have already proven we can prevent some breast cancer. Now we need to find ways to do it better.”

This study will enroll 100 women—50 of whom are pre-menopausal and 50 who are post-menopausal. Each female participant will take 25 mg of hydroxytyrosol daily for a 12-month period. Every three months, the subjects will undergo testing to assess the degree of breast density. This study will not contain a control group who is offered a placebo treatment.

Hydroxytyrosol is a phytochemical which is considered one of the most powerful naturally occurring antioxidants. It also has been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. Previous research has not only shown a clear benefit in the use of olive oil for its phytochemical properties associated with a reduction in free radical oxidation damage and inflammation, but also in how these chemicals affect potential cancer growth.

Previous published work has shown the effects that hydroxytyrosol has upon cancer cell growth including reducing chemical toxicity and the direct, protective influence upon cancer cell growth. Other research has indicated that the protection afforded by hydroxytyrosol upon cancer cell growth is directly due to its ability to influence the expression of certain genes associated with accelerated cancer cell growth and its influences as a powerful antioxidant.

One of the most exciting prospects for this unique chemical in decreasing breast density is its potential effects upon inflammation and the subsequent free radical activity this process potentiates inside human tissue.

The unique chemicals within olive oil, including hydroxytyrosol, have been shown to inhibit a process known as inflammatory angiogenesis which is a key process in cancer development. Chronic inflammation and the associated free radical activity could be a major contributor in the increased formation of breast connective tissue.

“Olive oil component investigated for breast cancer prevention,” ScienceDaily web site, January 22, 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140122112401.htm?
Nan, J.N., et al., “Biological effects of the olive polyphenol, hydroxytyrosol: An extra view from genome-wide transcriptome analysis,” Hell J Nucl Med. January-April 2014; 17 Suppl 1: 62-9.
Rafehi, H., et al., “Investigation into the biological properties of the olive polyphenol, hydroxytyrosol: mechanistic insights by genome-wide mRNA-Seq analysis,” Genes Nutr. April 2012; 7(2): 343-55.
Scoditti, E., et al., “Mediterranean diet polyphenols reduce inflammatory angiogenesis through MMP-9 and COX-2 inhibition in human vascular endothelial cells: a potentially protective mechanism in atherosclerotic vascular disease and cancer,” Arch Biochem Biophys. November 15, 2012; 527(2): 81-9.