Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and the fifth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. (1) The risk of developing this type of cancer increases significantly with age, putting middle-aged and older men at a higher risk. Mortality from prostate cancer is steadily declining, however, due to early screening tests. (2)
That’s partly because prostate cancer is slow-growing and can remain latent for twenty years before any symptoms appear. (3)
The Low-Down on Prostate Cancer
There are many different forms of prostate cancer: (4)
- adenocarcinoma – the most common, starts in cells that line the prostate
- ductal adenocarcinoma – begins in the gland ducts
- transitional cell (urothelial) – originates in the urethra
- squamous cell – those that cover the outside of the prostate gland
- small cell – very rare and spreads more quickly than adenocarcinoma; cells are small and round unlike other cancerous cells
- carcinoid – tumor that develops when hormones are produced at a very rapid rate
- sarcoma – very rare; develops in soft tissues around the prostate
A cancer becomes metastasized when abnormal cells break away from a tumor and travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. When prostate cancer metastasis occurs, it most commonly lodges in the bones, lymph nodes, lungs, liver, or brain (but can also form elsewhere). (5)
Treating Prostate Cancer
Conventional treatment for prostate cancer includes chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, cryosurgery (freezing with liquid nitrogen), hormone therapy, and ultrasound. Because it progresses slowly, physicians will often regularly monitor but delay any form of active treatment until the cancer shows signs of growing. (6) The side effects of these treatments impact your quality of life during and after cancer.
Luckily, a new study from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore has found a promising new natural treatment for prostate cancer.
“Nimbolide, a bioactive terpenoid compound derived from Azadirachta indica or more commonly known as the neem plant, could reduce the size of prostate tumor by up to 70 per cent and suppress its spread or metastasis by half.” (7)
The compound has yielded promising results and the neem leaves will be further researched.
Understanding the Neem Tree
Neem is a broad leafy evergreen tree in the mahogany family, indigenous to India and the Middle East. All parts of the plant (leaves, flowers, twigs, and bark) have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
You can use neem for:
- acne (8)
- oral health
- insect repellant
- skin moisturizer
- fungicide (9)
- chemoprevention (10)
- immune system support
- snake venom antidote
- digestive aid
- skin conditions (e.g., eczema, psoriasis)
- parasitic diseases (11)
The phytochemical nimbolide in the neem tree is part of a sub-class of substances generally classified as terpenes (specifically, a limonoid triterpene). Bioactive terpenes are found in the gums and resins of all plants and are responsible for their aromas and flavors.
Fighting Cancer with Neem Leaves
In the Singapore study, mice were fed a nimbolide extract from neem leaves. Over only twelve weeks, its anticancer activity was remarkable: stopping tumor growth and killing cancer cells (while leaving healthy cells alone), and preventing metastasis. Nimbolide seems to work by turning off a particular gene that signals tumor growth.
This isn’t the first study to show the anticancer effects of neem.
Nimbolide was found to have the same effect against pancreatic cancer cells but via a different mechanism.
“Migration and invasion are the initial and critical events in metastasis and enhance the ability of a cancer cell to enter and exit the circulation to reach distant organs…The interaction and communication between cancer cells and the microenvironment controls cancer progression…Nimbolide effectively inhibits the migratory, invasive and colony-forming capabilities of pancreatic cancer cells.” (12)
Other studies of nimbolide on different cell lines found it effective in causing cell apoptosis and preventing the migration of cancers of the colon, blood, bone, cervix, liver, and breast. (13)
These preliminary studies have poised researchers to begin planning human clinical trials. The outlook is extremely positive.
Before you use neem tea or neem oil, here are a few warnings to keep in mind:
- Neem isn’t safe for babies and toddlers
- anyone with a kidney or liver condition should consult a healthcare practitioner before using neem
- it is a mild sedative
- there can be drug interactions with neem, so consult a professional first if you’re taking any kind of medication.