The next time you receive a parsley garnish on your plate, you might actually want to eat it, especially if you’re a woman taking hormone-replacement therapy. Why? Parsley (and celery) contains a flavonoid called apigenin, which, according to a recent study*, may fight breast cancer tumors that are “fed” by synthetic progesterone.
For the study, published in May 2012 in the journal Hormones and Cancer mice were implanted with cells of a deadly, fast-growing human breast cancer, known as BT-474. Some of the mice were then treated with medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), a type of progestin (synthetic progesterone) commonly given to post-menopausal women. A control group did not receive MPA.
Later, one group of MPA-treated mice was treated with the apigenin. The result? Cancerous tumors grew rapidly in the mice which did not receive apigenin. In the apigenin-treated mice, breast cancer cell growth dropped to that of the control group, and the tumors shrank.
Salman Hyder, one of the study’s co-authors, indicates that while they do not know what causes the anti-cancer activity at the chemical level, they know apigenin slowed the progression of human breast cancer cells in three ways: by inducing cell death, by inhibiting cell proliferation and by reducing expression of a gene associated with cancer growth. The researchers noted that the blood vessels responsible for feeding cancer cells had smaller diameters in apigenin-treated mice compared to untreated mice. Smaller vessels mean restricted nutrient flow to the tumors. This means the apigenin may have served to starve the cancer as well as limit its ability to spread.
The researchers believe that in the future, apigenin injections could be a safe alternative or supplement to the highly toxic chemotherapy drugs now in use.