Drinking Tea Lowers Ovarian Cancer Risk
January 19, 2006—Women may lower their chance of developing ovarian cancer by up to 46% by drinking two or more cups of tea per day, reports the Archives of Internal Medicine (2005;165:2683–6).
Green and black teas are derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Black tea is produced by fermenting the leaves, whereas green tea is unfermented. Drinking tea may help lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, strengthen the immune system, and decrease the risk of dental cavities. Substances called polyphenols lend the plant many of its medicinal properties. Studies done in animals and test tubes have shown that polyphenols such as catechins, flavanols, and theaflavins have anticancer properties. These substances might block cancer-cell growth, inhibit the spread of tumors, or cause direct death of cancer cells.
The ovaries are two almond-sized organs located on either side of the uterus. In women of childbearing age, the ovaries manufacture eggs and produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Ovarian cancer strikes 1 in 57 American women. It can occur in younger women, but it is more common in women over age 60. Women who have a family history of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, or colon cancer are at a higher risk for developing the disease. Women who have had children are far less likely than women who have never had a child to develop ovarian cancer. Other factors, including the use of fertility drugs and post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy, may increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who take birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and those who breast-feed may be at a lower risk.
Because the disease may cause few symptoms in its early stages, ovarian cancer is often not diagnosed until it has spread to other organs, making it much harder to treat. A blood test used to detect the level of a substance called CA-125 may aid in the earlier diagnosis of ovarian cancer, improving the chance of survival.
Previous studies have yielded conflicting results about the relationship between tea consumption and ovarian cancer risk. The new study examined tea consumption and the subsequent development of ovarian cancer in over 60,000 women between ages 40 and 76. The women answered detailed questionnaires regarding their usual diet, including the average amount of tea they drank.
During the 15-year follow-up period, 301 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The more tea the women drank, the lower their risk of ovarian cancer. Drinking just one cup of tea per day reduced the risk of ovarian cancer by 24%, and women who drank two or more cups per day were 46% less likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who didn’t drink tea. For each additional cup of tea consumed, the risk decreased by another 18%.
The results of this large study provide evidence that drinking tea can substantially reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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