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Tuesday, September 6, 2005 - Green Tea: An Ancient Medicine and American Trend
Green Tea: An Ancient Medicine and American Trend
 
VINELAND, NJ (September 6) - Green tea has been used for centuries in ancient Chinese and Japanese medicine. Although studies conducted so far have proved inconclusive due to differences in patient population, environments and diet, the National Cancer Institute is pursuing research to see if green tea helps prevent cancer in humans.

At an international conference held in Washington, D.C., in July 2005, scientists from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) presented new evidence on the effects of green tea in Asian countries. Researchers in Japan and China are seeing a correlation between heavy tea consumption and lower rates of lung and breast cancers.

Boasting antioxidant power similar to a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, green tea is believed to promote healthy cell function and repair DNA molecules by targeting specific enzymes that would otherwise leave the body susceptible to cancer. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by free radicals in the body. Green tea has about three times the antioxidant properties of black tea. Scientists have also discovered other chemical compounds in some foods, such as broccoli and red wine, which signal our bodies to produce cancer-fighting proteins.

According to an AICR-sponsored laboratory study, green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, which targets and alters a specific cancer-linked protein (HSP90) and may help prevent prostate, breast, stomach, and colon cancer. Although each of these cancers is different, they all have elevated levels of HSP90 in common. Researchers are now working on a drug that will mimic these chemical reactions in the body and can be used in combination with a healthy diet.

While this research has been promising in the laboratory, an unpublished NCI clinical trial where patients drank four cups of green tea a day for four months, failed to demonstrate a link between tea consumption and cancer protection. According to AICR surveys, only 8 percent of Americans said that green tea is a regular part of their diet. In Japan, 65 percent of the population drinks green tea four or five times a week.

“Green tea is a healthy alternative to coffee and soda,”said Dr. Joseph Fanelle, Medical Director of the South Jersey Healthcare Frank and Edith Scarpa Cancer Pavilion “While adding a few cups of green tea a day to your diet can be beneficial, it should not be seen as a magical cure-all.”

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“Antioxidants are essential in preventing and fighting cancer, which is why we’re telling patients what we’ve always told them-eat the recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables each day.”

Studies have found the highest amounts of antioxidants in richly colored fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, raspberries, mangos and sweet potatoes. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study at Tufts University (published Sept. 15, 1999, in the Journal of Neuroscience) tested 40 fruits and vegetables and found the highest antioxidant level in blueberries. The compound anthocyanin not only gives blueberries their color but is also a powerful antioxidant.

Another study (published in the Journal of Food Science, April 2005) at the University of Illinois showed that blueberries can block activity by an enzyme involved in promoting cancer.

“Getting the recommended allowance of fruits and vegetables each day means eating at least five to nine servings of colorful, antioxidant-rich foods regularly,” said Fanelle. “Berries, oranges, pink grapefruit, kiwi and tomatoes are among the most nutrient-packed fruits. Spinach, beets and red peppers also aid in cancer prevention.”

To learn more about cancer, call the SJH Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion at (856) 575-4430.

SJH Cancer Services, located in the Frank and Edith Scarpa Regional Cancer Pavilion, have been an affiliate of the Fox Chase Cancer Center since 1995. SJH offers the only cancer program in Cumberland, Salem, or Gloucester counties designated as a Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons - Commission on Cancer.

The SJH team of board-certified physicians, registered radiation therapists and nationally-certified oncology nurses have provided state-of-the-art radiation therapy, medical oncology and cancer support services to thousands of patients in the region for more than 25 years.

SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents.