Mushrooms provide a wealth of very useful bioactive compounds and scientists wanted to see if there is a relation between mushroom consumption and the risk of cancer. They conducted a meta-analysis examining 17 cancer review studies written from 1966 to 2020 and published their findings in the science journal ‘Advances in Nutrition’.
The researchers believe an antioxidant found abundant in mushrooms may dramatically affect the body's ability to resist cancer.
Djibril M. Ba is a graduate student in epidemiology at Penn State College of Medicine. He explains that mushrooms are the most important dietary source of ergothioneine, a unique and potent antioxidant, and cellular protector. Replenishing antioxidants in the body might aid in protecting against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer.
It turns out that incidence rates for breast cancer were 45% lower among those who consumed 18 grams or more of mushrooms daily than those who did not consume any mushrooms at all.
"This study is one of the largest meta-analysis conducted to date examining the impact of mushroom consumption on cancer incidence," said Nichole Wentz, M.S., R.D., Assistant Professor in Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise at Penn State, who researches in the Centre for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
Wentz continues by explaining that the research presents evidence that regular consumption of mushrooms may decrease the risk for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. As this is data from a large number of studies in different population demographics, it can be said that there is sufficient evidence to warrant additional study to evaluate further the benefit of consuming mushrooms for cancer prevention.
Although the study indicated the most significant correlation between mushroom consumption and breast cancer prevention and survival, Ba suggested that this may be because most of the cases in the study related to breast cancer. He urges further research to be carried out to understand better the benefits of mushroom consumption for preventing other cancers.
"Research has shown consumption of mushrooms reduces inflammation which is associated with several cancers," added Wentz. "We are also seeing an increasing number of studies identifying compounds in mushrooms that may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is important that consumers know about the possible health benefits and how to find higher mushroom content in their diets. This work has created a new tool for researchers to use to study cancer and mushrooms. We hope our findings will motivate other researchers to continue to examine mushrooms for future research in this area."
Co-author John Richie, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher and professor of public health sciences and pharmacology, concluded, That, overall, these findings provide important evidence for the protective effects of mushrooms against cancer. Further research is necessary to better pinpoint the mechanisms involved and specific cancers that may be impacted.
So, next time you cook or eat out, add extra mushrooms to your meal to fortify your cancer protection.