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Vegetables Versus Breast Cancer

Mushrooms may help prevent breast cancer by acting as an aromatase inhibitor to block breast tumor estrogen production.

September 20, 2011 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to Renee Comet at the National Cancer Institute, Miansari66 via Wikimedia Commons, BogHog and By User:Slashme and User:Mikael Häggström (Self-made using bkchem and inkscape) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons


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 postmenopasal women is that there isn’t much estrogen around,  unless of course you take it in a drug like pre-mar-in, made from pregnant mare urine,  found not to affect the quality of women's lives, just the quantity, increasing the risk of strokes heart attacks blood clots and, breast cancer.

 Thankfully millions of women stopped taking it in 2002, and we saw a nice dip in breast cancer rates, but unfortunately, those rates have since stagnated.  Hundreds of thousands of American women continue every year to get that dreaded diagnosis. So what next?

Well, with no estrogen around, many breast tumors devise a nefarious plan, they’ll just make their own. 70% of breast cancer cells synthesize estrogen themselves  using an enzyme called aromatase,  which converts testosterone to estrogen, blue to pink. And so drug companies have produced a number of  aromatase inhibitor drugs which 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.

To do this, you need a lot of human tissue—where you going to get it from? To study skin, for example, researchers use discarded human foreskins. They’re just being thrown away might as well use them. Where are you going to get discarded female tissue, though? Placentas. Human placentas. So 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. And  here they are,. Seven different vegetables, dropping aromatase activity about 20%, except for this one. That’s like a 60, 65% drop inhibition. ]Which one was it? bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, celery , green onions, mushrooms, or spinach.  Not scallions, not celery, not carrots, not peppers, nor broccoli—that would have been my guess, not spinach, but: Mushrooms.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out the other videos on breast cancer. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, The Most Anti-Inflammatory MushroomBreast Cancer and Diet, Ergothioneine: A New Vitamin?Mushrooms for Breast Cancer Prevention, and Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out the other videos on breast cancer. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • Raychel83

    I really thought this was going to be cabbage before I saw the video. I have read that new research says cabbage can be good against certain cancers but I don’t remember if breast cancer is one. Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer so I am VERY interested in breast health. Thank you for this information. I love mushrooms and my daughter and I will up our consumption. Is there a recommended weekly amount and any particular kind better than others?

  • lbateman

    I look forward to more about which mushrooms: thank you!

  • Benjamin Stone

    Maitake mushrooms are a staple food for us, generally well known as chemopreventive.

  • Karen LaVine

    Fascinating! So women should enjoy mushrooms regularly, but be sure to cook the mushrooms first to inactivate the agaratine, right?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      Exactly Karen! See Toxins in Raw Mushrooms?

      • LynnCS

        That’s what I was going to ask. Thought I’d heard that!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Breast Cancer and Diet!

  • LynnCS

    Great info. I could read all night. I just go from post to post, but must sleep sometime. I am so grateful for all your hard work. Thank you. Lynn

  • signmanbob

    Dr. Greger, while we’re talking about mushrooms, I seen an article in one of my wife’s health magazines that said that mushrooms should only be eaten cooked. Is this true?

  • sonmi

    I inmates I have anemia I feel dizziness some time had a headache and very dry skin. I always eat right to take care of myself. It’s seems like never going way what can I do? So I can completely cure.