Garlic in Breast Cancer Prevention
Can garlic cure breast cancer? Most likely not, but garlic, especially in its raw form, may help prevent the development of breast cancer or at least some other types of cancer. Here's an overview of some recent studies that have been conducted to investigate a possible link between a low risk of breast cancer and high garlic consumption:
A French case-control study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in 1998 found that increased garlic consumption was associated with a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer risk in women, after taking into account total caloric intake and other established risk factors. This study involved 345 patients diagnosed with primary breast carcinoma and an equal number of controls that were matched for age and socio-economic status. The participants were asked to complete a self-administered food frequency questionnaire and a 6-day food diary, and to provide details of their energy expenditure.
However, not all epidemiological studies support the theory that garlic helps prevent breast cancer in women. A large 2006 study that analyzed dietary data from several European case-control studies found high garlic consumption to be associated with a significantly lower risk of several cancers, but not of breast cancer. The authors speculated that the fact that breast cancer is associated with hormonal and reproductive factors (rather than damage caused by free radicals) might explain the findings. This study was published in the November 2006 issue of in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
While the findings of epidemiological studies on garlic and breast cancer risk have been somewhat conflicting, laboratory tests have provided convincing evidence that garlic has strong breast cancer fighting properties. A laboratory study conducted by a group of scientists from Osaka, Japan, found diallyl disulfide to have strong anticancer properties that could provide protection against both hormone-dependent and hormone-independent breast cancer. Diallyl disulfide is an oil-soluble organosulfur compound that is produced during the decomposition of allicin. Allicin, in turn, is one of the most beneficial active compounds in garlic, but in order for allicin to be formed, garlic cloves will have to be crushed, sliced or chopped first.
The Bottom Line
Several studies, particularly laboratory studies, suggest that garlic can provide some protection against breast cancer, while other studies imply that garlic will not have a significant protective effect against breast cancer in humans. However, there is a vast body of evidence suggesting that a diet rich in garlic is good for your overall health and vitality, and that a diet rich in garlic and other members of the Allium family of plants can help prevent and fight several types of cancer including cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophageal cancer, colorectal cancer and laryngeal cancer. In the light of this evidence, including garlic in a breast cancer prevention diet seems to be a good idea.
1. Challier B, Perarnau JM, Viel JF (1998). Garlic, onion and cereal fiber as protective factors for breast cancer: A French case-control study. European Journal of Epidemiology, 14(8):737-747.
2. Galeone C, Pelucchi, Levi, Negri, Franceschi, Talamini, Giacosa, La Vecchia (2006). Onion and garlic use and human cancer. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84(5), 1027-32.
3. Hiroyuki Nakagawa, Koji Tsuta, Katsuji Kiuchi, Hideto Senzaki, Kanji Tanaka, Koshiro Hioki and Airo Tsubura (2001). Growth inhibitory effects of diallyl disulfide on human breast cancer cell lines. Carcinogenesis, 22(6), 891-897.