According to the American Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer this year – ultimately killing almost half of the people diagnosed within a 5-year time span(1).
While oral cancer is not as frequently discussed as other forms of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, it is no less deadly – and researchers are no less determined to find potential therapeutic treatments for it.
But a new study has discovered a surprising potential source of treatment for oral cancer – one that is accessible in most grocery stores. According to researchers, a nutrient found in common green tea has potent anti-cancer properties when it comes to oral cancers in particular.
Published in the journal Molecular Nutrition of Food and Research, the study looks at the ability of the natural substance epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, to destroy cancer cells(2).
Specifically, it looks at how the substance destroys cancer cells – something which has been known of but not understood until now.
“EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death”, explains researcher on the study Joshua Lambert.
As the mitochondria in the cancer cells mount a defence against EGCG, it becomes easier for the human body’s immune system to attack and destroy the cells – leaving healthy cells intact.
Cancer Treatment Potential
Researchers are hopeful that this study may pave the way to newer, less actively destructive methods of cancer treatment.
Current chemotherapy drugs work by targeting rapidly dividing cells. While cancer cells divide rapidly, so do healthy cells in your hair follicles and intestines – which is why contemporary cancer treatments are known for their terrible side effects.
“You don’t see these sorts of side effects with green tea consumption,” said Lambert.
While clinical trials seem to be a ways off yet, this study provides new hope to those battling oral cancer that a new treatment may be available eventually.
The Importance Of Prevention And Early Detection With Oral Cancer
Of course, with gentler and more effective therapies only in the preliminary stages of development, early detection and prevention are key in promoting better survival rates when it comes to oral cancer.
According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology,
“early diagnosis within stages I and II correspond to a vastly improved 5-year survival rate when compared with more advanced stage III and IV lesions.”(3)
Major risk factors for oral cancer include smoking and other consumption of tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco(4).