Estrogen receptor β is the primary estrogen receptor expressed at high levels by normal colon mucosa. In cancerous colons, however, the expression of this receptor shrinks, and is ultimately associated with the progression of colorectal cancer.
The phenols found in extra virgin olive oil have been considered possible anti-carcinogenic agents for colon cancer for some time because of the fact that most of them have a chemical structure extremely similar to that of 17 β-estradiol, the main form of estrogen found in humans. These phenols could be protective against colon cancer in working as selective modulators of estrogen receptors.
The study that led to these findings was conducted at the University of Florence in Italy, and was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. Researchers closely analyzed what effects phenolic extracts from two different types of extra virgin olive oil had on colon cancer cell lines in vitro. Researchers found the total content of polyphenols in the extra virgin olive oil was 12.69 and 8.43 milligrams per milliliter in the Tuscany and Liguria oils, respectively. The main phenolic extracts identified were lignans, secoiridoids and hydroxytyrosol.
These extracts were then tested on the colon cancer cell lines, which were specifically designed to over express estrogen receptor β. According to the researchers, the extra virgin olive oil extracts interacted with signals that are dependent on the presence of estrogen for growth of cancerous cells, which thus provide them with an anti-proliferative effect. These extracts were also found to down regulate the expression of a few other genes, including BAG-1, which resulted in a slowing down of cellular growth.
These findings are the latest pieces of evidence to show the potentially anti-cancer benefits of extra virgin olive oil. Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of the disease in the United States and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the nation.
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