Watercress may help prevent breast cancer: Study

Eating watercress every day could help prevent the onset of breast cancer, a new study has claimed.

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2010, 19:49 PM IST

London: Eating watercress every day could help prevent the onset of breast cancer, a new study has claimed.

Researchers at the University of Southampton found that the salad leaves increase the number of cancer-fighting molecules in the bloodstream within hours of eating and help
prevent the condition from developing.
The "super food" could also prevent the recurrence of the disease in recovering breast cancer sufferers, they said. In the pilot study, researchers asked volunteers to eat 80 grams of watercress per day regularly and found elevated levels of cancer-fighting molecules in their blood within hours of eating the salad leaves, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the researchers, the compound phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), which gives the salad leaf a peppery taste, is able to interfere with the function of a protein that plays a critical role in cancer development.

As tumours develop they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply and further development isn`t possible until they are able to obtain enough oxygen and nutrients to maintain the growth of cancer cells.
To get past this roadblock, the cancer cells send out signals which cause the surrounding normal tissues to grow new blood vessels into the tumour which then supply oxygen and
nutrients.

The protein Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) is at the heart of this process of inducing new blood vessel growth. However, PEITC, of which watercress is the richest natural source, was shown in laboratory tests to have the ability to block the function of HIF.

The research, which was funded by the Watercress Alliance, provides new hope to thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

PTI