Among all cancers, new cases of prostate cancer are the most prevalent, with an estimated 233,000 new diagnoses happening this year in the United States. While there are numerous tips for preventing and even reversing prostate cancer, one new study suggests a seaweed found off the coast of Florida could hold the key to preventing this and other forms of cancer.
The news potentially brings the U.S. closer to Asian countries in prostate cancer prevalence—countries that incidentally have high rates of seaweed consumption. Researchers with the University of Florida screened several different seaweeds, searching for one with the most cancer-protective promise. They found it in a common green algae known as sea lettuce.
Published in a recent issue of Cancer Prevention Research, their findings indicate the species may protect several organs from cancer, while being particularly useful in prostate cancer prevention.
“We now have scientific evidence that this seaweed raises the body’s antioxidant defense system and therefore might potentially prevent a number of diseases, including cancer,” said Hendrik Luesch, Ph.D., lead research and associate professor of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. “This mechanism appears to be most relevant to prostate cancer.”
Experts have long-wondered if the high consumption of sea weeds in Asian countries is tied to lower cancer rates. In addition to the above study, other research points to a seaweed called Fucoidan for further cancer protection. Fucoidan is absolutely lethal to certain types of cancerous cells. Sometimes called U-fucoidan, it is referenced in more than 600 peer-reviewed studies listed at the US National Library of Medicine.
Luesch’s research further helps to support the argument that seaweed can be a powerful protector:
“Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables protect the body against these free radicals, mostly through a scavenging process of elimination. Rather than simply removing the damaging free radicals through this direct reaction, compounds in sea lettuce worked through an indirect mechanism, Luesch found. This process increases the levels of a suite of antioxidant enzymes and boosts antioxidants in cells, producing longer-lasting protection. Regulated by stretches of DNA called antioxidant response elements, the enzymes prevent oxidative damage and inflammation.”
Luesch compares the possibilities of sea lettuce compounds to the proven benefits of sulforaphane in broccoli, an enzyme that works through similar methods to prevent damage from oxidative stress and cancer.
Luesch hopes further research will better identify potency and supplement specifics, giving men a natural tool for fighting this deadly disease.