TUESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Laboratory tests suggest pomegranates contain chemicals that reduce the risk that women will develop hormone-dependent breast cancers, researchers report.
The key seems to be a phytochemical, ellagic acid, found in pomegranates. It inhibits aromatase, an enzyme linked to the development of estrogen-responsive breast cancer.
"We were surprised by our findings," principal investigator Shiuan Chen, co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., said in a news release. "We previously found other fruits, such as grapes, to be capable of the inhibition of aromatase. But, phytochemicals in pomegranates and in grapes are different."
More studies are needed, Gary Stoner, a professor in the department of internal medicine at Ohio State University, said in the same news release. "It's not clear that these levels could be achieved in animals or in humans" because the chemicals may not be easily absorbed from food.
Still, he said, people "might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development in the breast and perhaps in other tissues and organs."
The study is published in the January issue of Cancer Prevention Research.
For more on breast cancer, see the National Cancer Institute.