Green Tea vs. Cancer: 'Preventive Medicine' in the Spotlight

Can a certain chemical in green tea help prevent cancer? An Atlanta-area 7th-grader, with help from his chemist father, recently won the Georgia Science and Engineering Fair and the attention of prominent researchers. His project focused on an antioxidant in green tea that helped prevent breast cancer tumors in a type of flatworm.

Consumption of green tea is often recommended as a preventive measure against cancer for healthy patients, as part of an overall diet that should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and limited-to-no processed meats or sugary drinks. Natural antioxidants and other chemicals which have been found to help fight cancer and other chronic diseases through numerous studies and clinical trials.

Dietitians don’t recommend taking supplements, which can have adverse side effects, especially for cancer patients undergoing active treatments. Most vitamins and other supplements — some derived from natural chemicals found in plants — that are heavily marketed in the United States are not regulated by the government.  Moreover, these supplements have to be detoxified by the liver, which can put cancer patients at risk because they are already overloading their liver through chemotherapies and other treatments.

Supplement products do not need to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they’re sold. Moreover, many facilities in which they are produced are not regulated to the level of the pharmaceutical companies. There is growing evidence that routine supplementation of vitamins can actually increase one’s cancer risk.

The Georgia 7th grader specifically tested “epigallocatechin-3-gallate” (EGCG), an antioxidant in green tea, to determine whether it could prevent breast cancer tumors in planaria, a type of flatworms. By the end of his experiment, the 12-year-old and his father determined that the worms exposed to EGCG and carcinogens didn’t grow any tumors, proving the antioxidant may actually help fight cancer growth in worm cells. It’s not a cure for cancer, the boy’s father, Lesley Litt, told media outlets. Much further testing is required to find a conclusive impact on humans. But previous studies have shed a positive light on green tea’s likely impact on reducing the risk of developing cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following lifestyle choices for cancer prevention:

  • Avoid excess weight.
  • Take part in regular physical activity (at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week).
  • Limit sedentary behavior.
  • Limit high calorie food & drinks.
  • Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
  • Eat at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Choose whole grains.


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