Can ginger really help men with prostate cancer? This time-honored remedy is well known for other, less serious problems—including occasional indigestion, muscle soreness, nausea and even arthritis pain. But if ginger can help men manage, or even someday cure, this dangerous cancer, that puts it on another level entirely.

Antitumor Benefits Without Toxic Effects

There's no doubt that ginger is a nutritional powerhouse-previous research has shown that many of the phytochemicals that make up ginger are packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative powers. Some have been shown, individually, to reduce the risk of developing cancer, and others have been shown to slow tumor growth if cancer occurs. Researchers at Georgia State University in Atlanta studied what effect whole ginger extract might have on prostate cancer, specifically, because other studies have shown that a high intake of fruits and vegetables (which also are high in phytochemicals) help prevent prostate cancer.

After implanting human prostate cancer in mice, investigators fed half of them whole ginger extract (the human equivalent of about 35 ounces of fresh ginger) every day for eight weeks, while the other half, the control group, was fed no ginger. Researchers found…

  • In the mice that were fed ginger, there was an inhibition (or slowing) of tumor growth by an average of 56%, compared with no inhibition of tumor growth in the control group that received no ginger.
  • Among the ginger-fed mice, there were no toxic effects in healthy tissue such as the gut or bone marrow. This is a promising finding, because if these were humans with prostate cancer and they were given a typical treatment of chemotherapy, there would be a high likelihood of toxic side effects, such as neuropathy, nausea, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea and permanent infertility.

These findings appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition.

An Anticancer Diet

Geovanni Espinosa, ND, director of clinical trials at the Integrative Urology Center at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City believes that the Georgia State study provides sufficient information to encourage most prostate cancer patients to include ginger in their diets—so talk to your doctor. And it's easy to do-you can grate it or slice it to mix with vegetables, rice, salad dressings and smoothies. Ginger tea (made from the root) is delicious, and it's easy to brew. Just simmer about an inch or so of ginger slices in water for 10 minutes.

Caution: Dr. Espinosa noted that ginger is not 100% risk-free-for example, in rare cases, high amounts of ginger might worsen a bleeding disorder, reduce blood sugar too much if you're diabetic and interfere with blood pressure drugs and certain heart medications, such as digoxin and digitoxin. So the possible side effects of extensive treatment with ginger need to be studied in humans.

New Drug for Advanced Prostate Cancer

Abiraterone (Zytiga) tablets inhibit the production of testosterone, which fuels the growth of prostate tumors.

Recent study: When combined with the corticosteroid prednisone, abiraterone added about four months to the lives of men with advanced prostate cancer, and it helped relieve pain and other disease-related symptoms.

Coffee May Fight Lethal Prostate Cancer

In a 14-year study of 47,911 American men (average age 53), those who drank one to three cups of coffee (caffeinated or decaffeinated) per day had a 30% lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer, while six or more cups daily was linked to a 60% lower risk. The reason for this association is still being studied.

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