Tea Time May Protect Against Ovarian Cancer

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IF YOU NEEDED ONE MORE REASON to begin a habit of drinking tea, the results of a new Swedish study might just push you over the edge and into the tea aisle of your grocery or health food store. Susanna C. Larsson, MSc, and colleagues reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine that middle-aged women who drink two or more cups of green or black tea every day may reduce their risk for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer by almost half.

The Karolinska Institute researchers studied 61,057 women ages 40 to 76 who completed a diet questionnaire and were then tracked for an average of 15.1 years. Women who consumed two or more cups of tea per day lowered their risk for ovarian cancer by 46%, with each additional cup lowering the risk by another 18%. The study found that even enjoying a spot of tea only occasionally offered some benefit: Those who drank less than one cup daily still reduced their risk somewhat when compared with women who rarely or never drank tea.

Tea contains antioxidant polyphenols, substances thought to block cell damage that can lead to cancer. Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, a professor in Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, notes that the antioxidant capacity per cup is similar between green and black tea. You can think of tea as another serving of plant food, providing phytochemicals similar to those in fruits and vegetables, Blumberg says.

The results in the Swedish study may not be entirely due to tea, however, Julie Buring, DSc, of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital cautioned in an Associated Press report. She noted the study also found that women who drank tea tended to be in better health, thanks to lifestyle habits. Indeed, the study's authors acknowledged that "the women who were regular tea drinkers were also those who ate more fruits and vegetables, were slimmer, and generally more health-conscious."

Still, Larsson and her team concluded that the dose-response relationship for tea consumption with ovarian cancer risk makes a strong case for the preventive properties of tea.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women, diagnosed in more than 20,000 women in the US yearly. Its symptoms, including abdominal bloating, indigestion and urinary urgency, can be vague and mimic less serious conditions, making ovarian cancer difficult to detect early.

TO LEARN MORE: Archives of Internal Medicine, Dec. 12,2005; free abstract online at .

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