Drinking green tea is often touted as a natural approach to reducing your cancer risk. Indeed, green tea is exceptionally high in antioxidants, which may help combat cancer by knocking out free radicals (chemical byproducts known to damage DNA). Still, research on green tea's cancer-fighting effects has yielded mixed results so far. Here, a look at the science behind green tea and its potential role in cancer prevention.
The Science Behind Green Tea and Cancer
There's not enough evidence to recommend green tea consumption as a strategy for cancer prevention, according to a research review published in 2009. In their research, investigators analyzed 51 studies with a total of more than 1.6 million participants. Results revealed "limited to moderate evidence" that green tea consumption reduced risk of lung cancer (especially in men). The review's findings also suggested that green tea consumption may be linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer. However, evidence for green tea's effects on cancers of the digestive tract, liver, stomach, colon, and pancreas was either limited or conflicting. What's more, some research indicated that green tea consumption may actually increase risk of bladder cancer.
In a more recent review, published in 2010, researchers looked at two studies (including a total of 1,331 women with breast cancer) and found a 27% reduction in breast cancer recurrence among women who drank more than three cups of green tea daily.
Should You Drink Green Tea to Prevent Cancer?
More research needs to be conducted before green tea consumption can be considered effective in reducing cancer risk. Still, researchers state that green tea appears to be safe when consumed in moderate amounts. Furthermore, green tea consumption may offer other health benefits, including reduced risk of stroke and periodontal disease.
To reduce your overall cancer risk, make sure to follow a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking. If you're considering the use of green tea or green tea supplements for cancer (or any other condition), talk to your doctor before increasing your green tea intake.
Boehm K, Borrelli F, Ernst E, Habacher G, Hung SK, Milazzo S, Horneber M. "Green tea (Camellia sinensis) for the prevention of cancer." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 8;(3):CD005004.
National Institutes of Health. "Green tea (Camellia sinensis)". July 2010.
Ogunleye AA, Xue F, Michels KB. "Green tea consumption and breast cancer risk or recurrence: a meta-analysis." Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 119(2):477-84.