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article imageHow hops can help to reduce breast cancer risk

By Tim Sandle     Jul 5, 2016 in Health
Hops, or rather a chemical extract from the plant, appears to act upon estrogen metabolism, one of the processes in the development of breast cancer. This has been the subject of new research.
Hops (Humulus lupulus) are more commonly associated with making beer than medical applications. With beer, the flower cones of the hop plant are used or flavoring and as a stability agent. In terms of flavor, hops impart bitter, zesty, or citric taste. Hops also have an antibacterial effect that favors the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable bacteria, thereby stopping the beer from being spoiled.
Hops have also been used in some dietary supplements designed to help treat post-menopausal symptoms (although the medial evidence of these is variable.) In more sound scientific study, researchers are looking into whether an extract from the hop plant can create sub-optimal conditions for breast cancer.
To show this, the researchers have undertaken tests on breast cells and the results are promising. The premise is that exposure to estrogen is a key risk factor in the development of breast cancer. A related concern here is that women undergoing menopause undertake hormone replacement therapy. However, there is some evidence that this therapy correlates with a higher risk of breast cancer.
The research has looked at a class of chemical extracts from hops called phytoestrogens. It appears that these confer some protective properties, as borne out from estrogen metabolism. This was demonstrated by applying the extract to two different breast cell lines. Here researchers observed the effect on estrogen metabolism.
It was found that one hop compound called 6-prenylnaringenin increased the effectiveness of the detoxification pathway in cells. This is something previously associated with lowering the chance of breast cancer.
It should be noted that much of what has been discussed refers to association and correlation; moreover, the studies conducted were in cell lines and the effects here do not necessarily translate to people. While promising, the findings need follow-up study and wider scale experiments.
The research has proved popular on social media, including CancernetUK (@Cancernetuk); although, with an air of exaggeration, some Twitter users have tweeted about the beer connection, such as Clark Schierle MDPhD (@DrClarkSchierle) who messaged: "Beer is the answer to even more of our problems than we thought." The research has focused on a hop extract and not consuming beer itself.
The research is published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology. The research paper is titled “Hop (Humulus lupulus L.) Extract and 6-Prenylnaringenin Induce P450 1A1 Catalyzed Estrogen 2-Hydroxylation.”
More about hops and cancer, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Hops
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