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How can drinking green tea help fight prostate cancer?

The health benefits of tea are thought to come from compounds called polyphenols, which are thought to have strong antioxidant potential. They have been shown in animal studies to fight cancer, bacteria and viruses, and to boost the immune system. Green tea contains the most polyphenols. Black tea has been studied less but also appears to have similar beneficial effects. The typical herb teas that Americans drink do not contain polyphenols; they do not have the same cancer-fighting properties as the Asian teas.

Epidemiological studies suggest that green tea may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Men in Asian countries, where it is consumed in large amounts, have low rates of prostate cancer. However, this could be due to other factors, such as more soy in their diet and less fat. But animal and laboratory studies clearly support the protective effects of green tea against all stages of cancer, from initiation to progression. It has been shown to result in the death or slowing of growth of various types of cancer cells. The actual mechanisms are not clear but may include regulation of male hormones to reduce dihydrotestosterone in cells, which appears to stimulate cancer development.

The big problem with tea as a preventive agent is the lack of evidence in humans. No prospective human studies have been performed, so the beneficial effects can only be speculated at this time. A big question is how much tea is needed to be protective in humans. The amount used in animal studies would be the equivalent of up to 10 cups a day in humans, much more than one would expect to consume. There is a need for human research in terms of the potential benefits, low harm, and low costs involved with the use of tea. Some prostate-protective tea products have been introduced in the U.S., usually including green tea with several other supposedly protective ingredients (e.g., saw palmetto, pygeum, Korean ginseng, soy extract, pumpkin seeds). But what is lacking is information about how much of each ingredient is present. The amounts may be so small that no beneficial effect could occur. Research needs to identify optimal amounts.

The bottom line is that green, black and oolong teas do appear to be good for you for several reasons, possibly including prostate health. But how good and how much is needed are not known. Still, it is probably worth adding some green tea to your diet as part of an overall prevention plan.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.