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6 July 2006
A Pomegranate Juice A Day Helps Keep Prostate Cancer At Bay
by George Atkinson

A new study by researchers at the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) has established that drinking an eight ounce glass of pomegranate juice daily quadrupled the length of time in which prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in men treated for prostate cancer remained stable. In layman's terms, this means that the juice could dramatically slow the progression of aggressive prostate cancers.

The study was based on 50 men who had undergone prostate surgery or radiation treatment, but who had quickly experienced subsequent increases in PSA levels, an indicator that the cancer may still be progressing. To assess cancer aggressiveness based on the rise in PSA levels, the UCLA researchers measured "doubling time," that is, how long it takes for PSA levels to double, a signal that the cancer is on the march.

Doubling time is crucial in prostate cancer, UCLA urologist Allan Pantuck explained, because patients who have short doubling times are more likely to die from their cancer. The average doubling time is about 15 months. In this study, Pantuck and his team observed increases in doubling times from 15 months to 54 months, an almost four-fold increase, thanks to the pomegranate juice.

"That's a big increase. I was surprised when I saw such an improvement in PSA numbers," Pantuck said. "In older men 65 to 70 who have been treated for prostate cancer, we can give them pomegranate juice and it may be possible for them to outlive their risk of dying from their cancer. We're hoping we may be able to prevent or delay the need for other therapies usually used in this population such as hormone treatment or chemotherapy, both of which bring with them harmful side effects."

Scientists have known for some time that pomegranate juice has anti-inflammatory effects and high levels of anti-oxidants, which are believed to protect the body from free-radical damage. It also contains poly-phenols, natural antioxidant compounds found in green tea, as well as isoflavones commonly found in soy, and ellagic acid, which is believed to play a role in cancer cell death.

The usual treatment for men with recurrent prostate cancer includes hormonal therapy, which removes testosterone from the system. Men treated using hormonal therapy can experience hot flashes, osteoporosis, fatigue, depression, muscle wasting, loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. "If drinking pomegranate juice can delay or prevent the need for hormonal therapy, patients would experience a better quality of life for a longer time," Pantuck said.

"This is not a cure, but we may be able to change the way prostate cancer grows," Pantuck added. "We don't know yet the specific factors behind this response - that's our next step in this research. We want to find out what cell signaling pathways might be affected, what is happening to keep PSA levels stable."

The results are impressive in that some men in the study are not receiving treatments other than drinking pomegranate juice, and their PSA levels continue to be suppressed. "The juice seems to be working," Pantuck concluded.

Based on material from the University of California - Los Angeles




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