Flaxseed: Protection against cancer?

 What does flaxseed has to do with cancer?

When plant lignans are metabolised by intestinal bacteria they form enterolactone. Lignans are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens that are estrogen-like chemicals and also act as antioxidants.

Source of Lignin Amount per 100 g
Flaxseed 300,000 µg (0.3 g)
Sesame seed 29,000 µg (29 mg)



185 – 2321 µg
Raw Banana 360-1450 µg
Red wine 91 µg

Entrolactone is emerging as an anti-cancer treatment modality.

Three recent interesting studies:

Study 1:

Article in Nutr.Cancer 2015:67(8) 1324-1332

Xiong et al investigated the mechanism how enterolactone, a metabolite of lignan, has an antitumor effect.

They used MDA-MB-231 cancer cells (in cultures)  and added enterolactone to it.


  • The cells stop proliferating. (mRNA levels of genes related to proliferation were reduced).
  • Enterolactone induced accumulation of cells in the S phase in the medium. (Inactive phase).
  • Enterolactone interferes with the cytoskeleton of the cells inhibiting migration and invasion of other non-neoplastic cells.

These findings provided new insights in the molecular mechanisms behind the antitumor effects of enterolactone (Flaxseed).

Study 2:

In another unrelated meta-analysis reported in Int. J. Cancer 2014; August 15.

This meta-analysis of five studies addressing lignan exposure and breast cancer prognosis in older female patients.

Median enterolactone levels for 2182 patients were done over a period of 4-8 years (2001-2009):

269 patients died: Average enterolactone value: 17,4 mmol/L.

1913 patients still alive and well: Average enterolactone level 22.9 mmol/L.

Summary of study: The study shows that high lignan exposure is associated with reduced mortality in breast cancer patients.

Study 3:

Reported in Journal of Medicinal Food: April 2013 16 (4): 357-360

The study investigated the effect of enterolactone on prostate cancer patients.

Findings: Enterolactone levels increase in urine after supplementation. It is inversely related to Ki67 in tumour tissue. (Ki67 is an indication of proliferation and growth of tumour cells).

Conclusion: Flax-seed derived enterolactone may hinder prostate cancer cell proliferation.

My conclusion:

It is still early days of exploding research about the microbioma and lignans but with the additional beneficial effects of lignans on the gut microbioma (Pre-biotics) I do not take chances and take 5 ml flaxseed every day. My Oncologist friend say he likes to give his cancer treatment out of bottles. I told him I do not even want to reach his bottle stage, therefor my flaxseed utilization.

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