Tea for Two: Reducing Ovarian Cancer Risk

December 05, 2005

Tea for Two:  Reducing Ovarian Cancer Risk 

 Competency #14 SUPERFOODS                          Reference:  Archives of Internal Medicine,  Dec 12, 2005:165, 2683-2686  Author Susanna Larrson) 

 Ovarian Cancer is # 4 on the Hit List.  You can screen for breast cancer (#1).  You can screen for colon cancer.  You can not smoke.  But it's really hard to screen for ovarian cancer.  So, it remains on the hit list of nasty diseases.  And I've just had my life affected by a death from ovarian cancer, so I have a grudge. Prospective studies are few and hard to find.  So when the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden released their study there was lots of attention paid to it.  

They have followed over 61,000 women from 1987 till 2004. (This prospective study is almost as large as Harvard's Nurses study, and for almost as long, so it has large numbers of people for a long period of time.  That adds validity). Because of prior population studies that hint at beneficial effects from tea, they specifically asked the study participants how much tea they drank.  This was followed prospectively, not backward from memories of behaviors past.  In that cohort of women, 301 developed ovarian cancer, prospectively. 

 The results showed that many women never drank tea at all.  Those who drank two cups of tea a day had a 46% reduction in their ovarian cancer risk.  And for each cup of tea a day past two, another 18% reduction occurred.   The linear relationship with consumption suggests validity.  Interestingly, no effect at all was found for coffee.  The p value was .03.  Reasonably solid. This doesn't prove anything because it's just a first study.  We don't understand the actual mechanism.  This is just a population-based association.  But it is prospective, and the numbers are huge.  

It will take many years to ever repeat such a study.  It will take even longer to find a population of humans willing to do one precise behavior for 20 years.  I haven't got that many years left myself.  But it adds to the body of knowledge that leads us to agree that foods high in antioxidant value (the presumption here) keep showing themselves to have benefit in varieties of different studies. 

 WWW: What will work for me:  I drink a big mug of tea each day at breakfast.  I like mine the Chai way: lots of milk and Stevia with a hint of cardamom and cinnamon.  Chai spice tea is available now from multiple different companies.  It makes tea more interesting. A comfort food with few calories.   I get a calcium serving out of it because my mug is 1/3 skim milk.  It keeps me warm as I walk our pooch in the yard.  You can make your own Chai Spice:  experiment with a tiny shake of cardamom.  Try adding a tiny touch of cinnamon to your next go-around.  Some folks like adding black pepper and some like heavy cream. 

This column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI.  (262-784-5300)