Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Good News In The Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

Although ovarian cancer is relatively rare -- striking one woman out of 108 -- it is fatal for more than half of the women who do develop it because detection in early stages is so difficult. Anything that might help a woman stack the deck against this cancer is clearly important information, but there has been little of it to date. Now a Swedish study suggests that something as simple as having a cup or two of tea each day might lower risk. The study, from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, enrolled 61,057 women, ages 40 to 76, who responded to a food-frequency questionnaire and who were then followed for an average of 15.1 years. During that time 301 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When the researchers evaluated data concerning food and drink consumption, they discovered that the women who drank two or more cups of tea per day had a 46% lower risk of ovarian cancer than the women who drank no tea. Women who drank one cup per day had a 24% lowered risk and women who drank considerably less, from three cups a month to five or six per week, lowered risk by 18%. While previous laboratory research has associated tea drinking with reduced cancer risk, this was one of the few studies that investigated tea consumption and ovarian cancer risk in a population of women. A logical question, however, is if tea drinkers in particular have other healthful habits that might factor into the decreased cancer risk. I put that question to Susanna Larsson, MSc, who was a chief researcher on the study. She says that they controlled for such variables, including the amount of fruits and vegetables the women ate and their alcohol consumption. The study did not cover exercise or smoking habits, she says, because neither of these has been associated with ovarian cancer. Larsson is quick to add that more research is in order to confirm their findings, but she points out that tea is a rich source of polylphenols, and these may reduce cancer risk because of their strong antioxidant properties. The majority of women in the study -- 68% --- were in fact tea drinkers, Larsson says, and most of them drank black, not green tea. This study gives afternoon tea time a whole new meaning.


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