Cholesterol Feeds Breast Cancer Cells

Cholesterol Feeds Breast Cancer Cells
4.46 (89.23%) 26 votes

Cholesterol appears to stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells—which may explain why phytosterol-rich foods, such as pumpkin seeds, are associated with reduced breast cancer risk.

Discuss
Republish

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. There are a number of compounds in plant foods that may protect against breast cancer by a variety of mechanisms. I’ve talked about the benefits of broccoli, and flax seeds, and soy foods, but this recent study out of Germany reported something new. “[E]vidence for..reduced…breast cancer risk associated with…consumption of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.” Sunflower and pumpkin seeds were associated with reduced breast cancer risk, which they initially chalked up to the lignans in the seeds—something else I’ve talked about. But, their lignan lead did not pan out. Maybe it’s the phytosterols, then, that are found concentrated in seeds?

There is evidence phytosterols may be “anticancer nutrients” that may play a role in reducing breast cancer risks. I thought that phytosterols just lowered cholesterol. What does cancer have to do with cholesterol?

Well, “[i]ncreasing evidence demonstrates the role that cholesterol…[may] play in the development and progression of breast cancer.” Cancer feeds on cholesterol. “Transformed cells take up LDL” (so-called bad cholesterol) and is “capable of stimulating [the] growth of [human] breast cancer cells” in a petri dish. See all these little red dots? That’s fat that the breast cancer cells are gobbling up.

“The ability to accumulate [fat and cholesterol] may enable [cancer] cells to take advantage” of people eating high-fat diets, and high-cholesterol diets. “[I]ncreased dietary cholesterol intake [may result] in increased breast cancer risk,” and may at least partially explain the benefit “of a low-fat diet on [lowering] human breast cancer recurrence.”

Though data has been mixed, the largest study to date found a 17% increased risk in women who had cholesterol over 240, compared to women whose cholesterol was under 160—though they cannot rule out that there may be something else in cholesterol-raising foods that’s raising breast cancer risk.

Tumors suck up so much cholesterol, though, that LDL has been considered as “a vehicle for targeting antitumor [drugs] to cancer cells.” Since cancer feeds on cholesterol, maybe we could stuff some chemo into it, as like a Trojan-horse poison pill. That’s probably why people’s cholesterol levels drop so low after they get cancer—the tumor is eating it up.

In fact, patient survival may be lowest when cholesterol uptake is highest. “[H]igh LDL receptor content in human breast cancer tissue seems to indicate a poor prognosis, suggest[ing] that breast tumours rich in LDL receptors may grow rapidly” in the body. We’ve known about this for decades. You can tell this is an old study; back in the 80s only “one [in] 11” American women got it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. There are a number of compounds in plant foods that may protect against breast cancer by a variety of mechanisms. I’ve talked about the benefits of broccoli, and flax seeds, and soy foods, but this recent study out of Germany reported something new. “[E]vidence for..reduced…breast cancer risk associated with…consumption of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.” Sunflower and pumpkin seeds were associated with reduced breast cancer risk, which they initially chalked up to the lignans in the seeds—something else I’ve talked about. But, their lignan lead did not pan out. Maybe it’s the phytosterols, then, that are found concentrated in seeds?

There is evidence phytosterols may be “anticancer nutrients” that may play a role in reducing breast cancer risks. I thought that phytosterols just lowered cholesterol. What does cancer have to do with cholesterol?

Well, “[i]ncreasing evidence demonstrates the role that cholesterol…[may] play in the development and progression of breast cancer.” Cancer feeds on cholesterol. “Transformed cells take up LDL” (so-called bad cholesterol) and is “capable of stimulating [the] growth of [human] breast cancer cells” in a petri dish. See all these little red dots? That’s fat that the breast cancer cells are gobbling up.

“The ability to accumulate [fat and cholesterol] may enable [cancer] cells to take advantage” of people eating high-fat diets, and high-cholesterol diets. “[I]ncreased dietary cholesterol intake [may result] in increased breast cancer risk,” and may at least partially explain the benefit “of a low-fat diet on [lowering] human breast cancer recurrence.”

Though data has been mixed, the largest study to date found a 17% increased risk in women who had cholesterol over 240, compared to women whose cholesterol was under 160—though they cannot rule out that there may be something else in cholesterol-raising foods that’s raising breast cancer risk.

Tumors suck up so much cholesterol, though, that LDL has been considered as “a vehicle for targeting antitumor [drugs] to cancer cells.” Since cancer feeds on cholesterol, maybe we could stuff some chemo into it, as like a Trojan-horse poison pill. That’s probably why people’s cholesterol levels drop so low after they get cancer—the tumor is eating it up.

In fact, patient survival may be lowest when cholesterol uptake is highest. “[H]igh LDL receptor content in human breast cancer tissue seems to indicate a poor prognosis, suggest[ing] that breast tumours rich in LDL receptors may grow rapidly” in the body. We’ve known about this for decades. You can tell this is an old study; back in the 80s only “one [in] 11” American women got it.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Julie Redmond and Baylor Health Care System via flickr

Doctor's Note

If cholesterol increases breast cancer risk, what about the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs? That’s the subject of my next video, Statin Cholesterol Drugs & Invasive Breast Cancer.

Other foods I mentioned protective against breast cancer include:

Some I didn’t mention include:

More on phytosterols and where they’re found:

And in 2019 I released a new video on cholesterol and cancer: Dietary Cholesterol and Cancer

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This