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Can Spirulina Fight Cancer? Review of Studies

Spirulina and Cancer

Spirulina is a blue-green algae that has been associated with a wide range of potential health benefits, including reduced cholesterol levels, protection against allergies and anti-viral activity. There is also some evidence suggesting that this green "superfood" might help fight certain types of cancer; however, at the writing of this article, further research is still needed before any definite recommendations can be made with regard to the use of spirulina as an anti-cancer agent in humans.

Spirulina Found to Fight Pancreatic Cancer in Test Tubes and Animals

Intrigued by the presence of bioactive tetrapyrrolic compounds in spirulina, a group of Czech researchers set to investigate the potential anti-proliferative effects of Spirulina platensis (also known as Arthrospira platensis) and its tetrapyrrolic compounds phycocyanobilin (PCB) and chlorophyllin against human pancreatic cancer cells lines. To complement their in vitro experiment with an in vivo experiment, the researchers also tested the anti-cancer effects of freeze-dried spirulina in mice with pancreatic tumors. In both experiments, spirulina and its tetrapyrrolic compounds exerted strong anti-carcinogenic effects. These effects appeared to be mediated, at least partially, by direct inhibition of mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). More research is needed to determine whether spirulina would have the same effects in people.

Anti-Cancer Effects Demonstrated in Mice with Breast Tumors

While it is too early to tell whether spirulina can help fight breast cancer in women, there is some compelling evidence out there that will hopefully prompt large-scale studies on spirulina and breast cancer. A study published in The American Journal of Pathology in April 2014 investigated the chemopreventive effects of spirulina algae against breast cancer in mice with artificially induced tumors. The effects of spirulina supplementation were remarkable: the incidence of breast tumors went down from 87% to 13%. A further immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the breast cancer fighting effects observed in the mice were linked to the ability of spirulina to reduce expression of Ki-67, a nuclear protein that is associated with cellular proliferation, and estrogen Α, which plays an important role in mammary carcinogenesis.

Spirulina Reduces Precancerous Oral Lesions Linked to Tobacco, Study Shows

A placebo-controlled study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 1995 found that spirulina supplementation was effective at reducing precancerous oral lesions known as leukoplakia in people who chewed tobacco. Complete regression of lesions was observed in 20 of the 44 subjects who received 1 gram of Spirulina fusiformis daily for 12 months (Group A), as opposed to 3 of 43 subjects in the placebo group (Group B). However, within one year of discontinuing supplementation, 45% of the Group A subjects who completed the entire study had developed recurrent lesions.


1. R. Konickova et al. (2014). Anti-cancer effects of blue-green alga Spirulina platensis, a natural source of bilirubin-like tetrapyrrolic compounds. Annals of Hepatology, Vol 13, No. 2.
2. A. Ouhtit et al. (2014). Chemoprevention of Rat Mammary Carcinogenesis by Spirulina. The American Journal of Pathology, Vol. 184, Issue 1, Pages 296-303.
3. B. Mathew et al (1995). Evaluation of chemoprevention of oral cancer with spirulina fusiformis. Nutrition and Cancer, Vol. 24, Issue 2, Pages 197-202.

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