`Key Mechanism Links Olive Oil to Protection Against Breast Cancer.


Key Mechanism Links Olive Oil to Protection Against Breast Cancer.

Jun. 30, 2010
By Olive Oil Times Staff

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Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­tat Autonoma de Barcelona decoded a com­plete cas­cade of sig­nals within breast tumor cells acti­vated by vir­gin olive oil, and con­cluded that ben­e­fits include decrease in the activ­ity of the onco­gene p21Ras, changes in pro­tein sig­nal­ing path­ways, stim­u­la­tion of tumor cell death and pre­ven­tion of DNA dam­age. The study was car­ried out in an exper­i­men­tal model and researchers have already begun a new study with human cell lines.

Breast can­cer is the most com­mon type of can­cer in West­ern coun­tries. Research car­ried out with ani­mal mod­els demon­strate that a diet rich in fats is directly related to the inci­dence of can­cer. Some types of fats how­ever can play a pro­tec­tive role against the devel­op­ment of these tumors.

Such is the case of vir­gin olive oil, rich in oleic acid, a mono-unsat­u­rated fatty acid, and con­tain­ing sev­eral bioac­tive com­pounds such as antiox­i­dants. A mod­er­ate and reg­u­lar intake of vir­gin olive oil, char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Mediter­ranean diet, is asso­ci­ated with low inci­dences of spe­cific types of can­cer, includ­ing breast can­cer, as well as with hav­ing a pro­tec­tive role against coro­nary dis­eases and other health prob­lems.

The study car­ried out by UAB researchers decoded the mech­a­nisms oper­at­ing within the tumor cell and induced by the intake of olive oil, in com­par­i­son to those acti­vated by corn oil, rich in n‑6 polyun­sat­u­rated fatty acids, which increase the aggres­sive­ness of tumors.

Sci­en­tists demon­strated that vir­gin olive oil is asso­ci­ated with higher inci­dences of benign breast tumors and at the same time with a decrease in the activ­ity of the p21Ras onco­gene, which spurs uncon­trolled cell pro­lif­er­a­tion and stim­u­lates the growth of tumors.

In addi­tion, olive oil sup­presses the activ­ity of some pro­teins, such as the AKT, essen­tial for the sur­vival of cells since they pre­vent apop­to­sis, the cel­l’s sui­cide” pro­gramme. Between pro­lif­er­a­tion and apop­to­sis in tumor cells, these effects tip the bal­ance towards cell death, thereby slow­ing the growth of tumors.


Another result obtained by researchers is the pro­tec­tion of DNA in the cell nucleus. Cells from ani­mals fed a diet rich in vir­gin olive oil con­tained less DNA lesions than those fed a con­trol diet.

Sci­en­tists of the UAB Breast Can­cer Study Mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary Group (GMECM) have spent over twenty years work­ing to deter­mine the effects fats have on breast can­cer, and in par­tic­u­lar the effects of vir­gin olive oil.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies of the group revealed the ben­e­fi­cial effects of this com­po­nent of the human diet on the clin­i­cal con­duct of mam­mary tumors and on their his­to­log­i­cal grade (malig­nancy). Sci­en­tists also described sev­eral mol­e­c­u­lar mech­a­nisms pro­duc­ing these effects and in 2004 the same group was the one to iden­tify the four genes involved in the effects dietary fats have on exper­i­men­tal breast can­cer. The mech­a­nism recently dis­cov­ered was pub­lished in the jour­nal Car­cino­gen­e­sis.

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