But lab test results must be repeated in animals and humans, experts say
TUESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A popular nutritional supplement -- extract of bitter melon -- may help protect women from breast cancer, researchers say.
Bitter melon is a common vegetable in India, China and South America, and its extract is used in folk remedies for diabetes because of its blood-sugar lowering capabilities, according to the researchers.
"When we used the extract from that melon, we saw that it kills the breast cancer cells," said lead researcher Ratna Ray, a professor of pathology at Saint Louis University. But their work was done in a laboratory, not in humans, she noted.
The bitter melon extract killed only the cancer cells, not the healthy breast cells. "We didn't see any death in the normal cells," she said.
However, these results are not proof that bitter melon extract prevents or cures breast cancer.
"I don't believe that it will cure cancer," Ray said. "It will probably delay or perhaps have some prevention."
The report was published online Feb. 23 in advance of print publication March 1 in Cancer Research.
For the study, Ray's team treated human breast cancer cells with bitter melon extract, which is sold in U.S. health food stores and over the Internet.
The extract slowed the growth of these breast cancer cells and even killed them, the researchers found. The next step is to see if the team can repeat these findings in animals, Ray said. If so, human trials might follow.
Eating bitter melon could also have a beneficial effect, Ray said. "It has ingredients which are good for the health." Those ingredients include Vitamin C and flavonoids.
Marji McCullough, strategic director of nutritional epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, expressed interest in the findings.
"The results of this laboratory study are intriguing,"
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