The blueberry has long been touted as a nutritional powerhouse. The tiny fruit is low in calories but packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants. Now a study published in Pathology and Oncology Research finds combining blueberry extract with radiation therapy could boost treatment effectiveness.
Previous studies have even shown blueberries have the ability to protect against certain cancer types, but this study conducted by a team of researchers from Iowa, Missouri, and China, is the first to look at blueberries and cervical cancer.
During the study, researchers tested the effectiveness of the blueberry extract alone and in combination with radiation. They also compared these results with those of radiation therapy alone.
The scientists discovered that when used independently, radiation reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent. And, by itself, the blueberry extract reduced cancer cell counts by 25 percent. However, the combination of blueberry extract and radiation yielded a 70 percent reduction in cervical cancer cells.
Although it is not entirely clear how the blueberry extract works, scientists point out the resveratrol in blueberries can act as a radiosensitizer. Flavonoids and other chemicals contained in the berries may also play a role.
While routine Pap test is credited with cutting the rate of cervical cancer diagnoses in half over the past 4 decades, in this country, more than 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are still diagnosed annually.
Further studies on the effects of blueberries in cancer treatment are planned, but meanwhile, researchers suggest consuming a handful of blueberries prior to and during radiation therapy could be beneficial.
For more information on diet and cancer treatment, please contact Ackerman Cancer Center’s Oncology Wellness Specialist, Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N.