Green Tea and Your Health - Cancer

[Zhi Tea: July 22nd, 2008]

Several population-based studies have shown that green tea helps protect against cancer. For example, cancer rates tend to be low in countries such as Japan where people regularly consume green tea. However, it is not possible to determine from these population-based studies whether green tea actually prevents cancer in people. Emerging studies suggest that the polyphenols in green tea may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Researchers also believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop their progression.

Bladder cancer . Only a few studies have examined the relationship between bladder cancer and green tea consumption. In one study that compared people with and without bladder cancer, researchers found that women who drank black tea and powdered green tea were less likely to develop bladder cancer. A follow-up study by the same group of researchers revealed that bladder cancer patients (particularly men) who drank green tea had a substantially better 5-year survival rate than those who did not.

Breast cancer. Studies in animals and test tubes suggest that polyphenols in green tea inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. In one study of 472 women with various stages of breast cancer, researchers found that women who consumed the most green tea experienced the least spread of cancer (particularly premenopausal women in the early stages of breast cancer). They also found that women with early stages of the disease who drank at least 5 cups of tea every day before being diagnosed with cancer were less likely to suffer recurrences of the disease after completion of treatment. However, women with late stages of breast cancer experienced little or no improvement from drinking green tea. In terms of breast cancer prevention, the studies are inconclusive. In one very large study from Japan, researchers found that drinking green tea was not associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer.

Ovarian cancer . In a study conducted on ovarian cancer patients in China, researchers found that women who drank at least one cup of green tea per day survived longer with the disease than those who didn’t drink green tea. In fact, those who drank the most tea, lived the longest.

Colorectal cancer.  Studies on the effects of green tea on colon or rectal cancer have produced conflicting results. Some studies show decreased risk in those who drink the tea, while others show increased risk. Further research is needed before researchers can recommend green tea for the prevention of colorectal cancer.

Esophageal cancer.  Studies in laboratory animals have found that green tea polyphenols inhibit the growth of esophageal cancer cells. However, studies in people have produced conflicting findings. For example, one large-scale population-based study found that green tea offered significant protection against the development of esophageal cancer (particularly among women). Another population-based study revealed just the opposite -- green tea consumption was associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

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