Oasis's Bonehead at Teenage Cancer Trust concert in March
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There have been many conflicting reports about cancer prevention. Sometimes a specific cancer-prevention tip recommended in one study is advised against in another. Often, what is known about cancer prevention is still evolving.
One item that has shown promise in preventing cancer is milk thistle, a flowering plant that boasts a medicinal compound called silymarin.
Milk thistle is a plant that comes from the same group of flowers as the daisy.
It is not a treatment for cancer but has shown promising evidence in its ability to prevent it.
Silymarin is an extract of milk thistle seeds and milk thistle supplements containing this medicinal compound are available as capsules, tablets, powder, and liquid extract.
More research is needed to determine the utility of milk thistle in fighting cancer, but evidence does hint at its promise.
Milk thistle might also help to treat some liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
In a study published in the National Library of Medicine, silibinin to prevent bowel cancer was further investigated.
“Over the years, pre-clinical studies have shown that silibinin (a flavonolignan isolated from the seeds of milk thistle, Silybum marianum) has strong preventive and therapeutic efficacy against various epithelial cancers, including bowel cancer,” began the study.
It added: “Silybum marianum has a long history of human use for liver ailments, widely available as a nutraceutical supplement and now clinically used to manage hepatotoxicity in various countries.
“Importantly, silibinin is considered as a very promising cancer chemo preventive agent based on completed studies showing its strong efficacy against various epithelial cancers, including bowel cancer.”
The cause as to why it may prevent bowel cancers was found in vitro cell culture conditions where silibinin has been shown to inhibit the growth and proliferation of a wide range of colorectal cells.
“Other in-depth studies have shown that at physiologically relevant dose (100 µmol/L), silibinin causes oxidative stress in CRC cells, which triggers an apoptotic response and is followed by a chain of events resulting in autophagy-mediated programmed cell death type.”
It concluded: “The summarised studies adequate evidence highlighting the potential of silibinin intake to significantly impact bowel cancer growth and progression.”
Several other studies have looked at whether milk thistle can be used to decrease side effects of cancer treatment.
One randomised clinical trial in children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia found that silymarin decreased the side effects of chemotherapy on the liver without harming the cancer treatment.
“Although taking milk thistle is generally considered safe, we would recommend anyone thinking of taking it to talk to their doctor first,” saysCancer Research.
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