Can an extract from hops flowers reduce breast cancer risk?

Some sort of Hops Flowers Substance is a common dietary supplement used by post-menopausal women. A recent study looks at one molecule extracted from hops to see if it could help reduce the chance of getting breast cancer.

The paper is in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, and is called Hop (Humulus lupulus L.) Extract and 6-Prenylnaringenin Induce P450 1A1 Catalyzed Estrogen 2-Hydroxylation, by Shuai Wang, Tareisha L. Dunlap, Caitlin E. Howell, Obinna C. Mbachu, Emily A. Rue, Rasika Phansalkar, Shao-Nong Chen, Guido F. Pauli, Birgit M. Dietz, and Judy L. Bolton.

One factor that increases the risk of breast cancer is exposure to estrogen, which may be the result of hormone treatment in post-menopausal women (hormone replacement therapy, or HRT). The “natural supplement” made from hops is supposed to supply plant-originated hormones that, perhaps, are believed by some to be less likely to have bad side effects. I’m pretty sure there is no reason to think that. It might be, however, that a molecule found in hops extract, taken to supply phyotestrogen (as a “natural” alternative to industrially produced estrogen) could independently reduce breast cancer risk. This research is still in early stages.

From the press release that goes along with the paper:

Preliminary lab studies have suggested that certain active compounds from hops could have protective properties. Building on this lead, Judy L. Bolton and colleagues used an enriched hop extract to test its effects on estrogen metabolism, one of the processes in the development of breast cancer.

The researchers applied the extract to two different breast cell lines to see how they would affect estrogen metabolism. One particular hops compound called 6-prenylnaringenin, or 6-PN, boosted the cells’ detoxification pathway that studies have associated with a lower risk for breast cancer. Thus the results suggest that 6-PN could have anti-cancer effects, although more studies would be needed to further investigate this possibility, the researchers say.

I asked Dr. Bolton the obvious question, which I know people will want to know the answer to. “If a woman drinks a LOT of beer, is that going to help avoid breast cancer? And, if so, how much beer?”

Dr. Bolton only had bad news in this regard. She and her team used a byproduct of beer making that concentrated the hops extract, and further concentrated this. (I simplify a bit.) She guesses that the amount of 6-PN in actual beer would be very very low. So, no.

But putting that aside, this research does look promising. An anti-breast cancer dietary supplement that is easy to produce and inexpensive, and that has few or no side effects (other research has failed to show any serious side effects of this stuff) would be a very good thing.

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3 thoughts on “Can an extract from hops flowers reduce breast cancer risk?

  1. Actually, I think there IS a “reason to think that” – a combination of the documented serious side effects of equine-estrogen-based HRT, plus the millennia-long history of human consumption of plants containing phytoestrogens. To say there was no reason to think hops were safer than HRT would be to hold the presumption that all natural products are as dangerous as HRT, which raises the question of why we aren’t all dead.

  2. Beer making does, however, produce an effective anti-breast cancer concern dietary supplement that is easy to produce and is inexpensive, and that has few or no side effects (other than creating a beer belly — which it also tends to reduce the concern of, coincidentally).

    For those men out there who might be feeling the angst of being left out of this particular remedy, be aware that males are also at risk of contracting breast cancer, and can therefore consider engaging in this palliative treatment for the prevention of male breast cancer concern as well.

    Being a dietary supplement, it’s available without a prescription at your local pub or liquor store. Participants must be over the age of 21. The degree of concern reduction may vary with the amount consumed and/or the amount of prior experience with similar products. This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Keep unused portion refrigerated. Please self-treat responsibly. Good while supplies last.

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