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AICR Food Facts  >  Foods That Fight Cancer

Flaxseed: Full of Fiber and Phytochemicals

This content was last updated on December 20, 2019

The Cancer Research

Flaxseed’s potential influence on breast, prostate, and other hormone-related cancers has led to an interest in its role for the prevention and survivorship of these cancers. Results have shown mixed findings, and much more human research is needed.

Interpreting the data

After a systematic review of the global scientific literature, AICR/WCRF analyzed how vegetables and different foods and its nutrients affect the risk of developing cancer.

  • Evidence categorized as “convincing” and “probable” means there is strong research showing a causal relationship to cancer—either decreasing or increasing the risk. The research must include quality human studies that meet specific criteria and biological explanations for the findings.
  • A convincing or probable judgment is strong enough to justify recommendations.
  • There is probable evidence that foods with dietary fiber DECREASE the risk of:
    • Colorectal cancer

• Evidence categorized as “limited suggestive” means results are generally consistent in overall conclusions, but it’s rarely strong enough to justify recommendations to reduce risk of cancer.

Source: AICR/WCRF. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective, 2018.

Ongoing Areas of Investigation

  • Tips for Selection, Storage and Preparation
    Selection:
    • Whole flaxseed provides plenty of fiber, but our bodies can’t digest it enough to access its other healthful components. Ground flaxseed offers more potential health benefits, but it doesn’t stay fresh as long as whole flaxseed.
    • Buy whole flaxseed to grind in a coffee or spice grinder.
    • If ground flaxseed or flaxseed meal is more convenient, buy either type, refrigerated or in a vacuum-sealed package.
    • Flaxseed oil is quite perishable. Buy it in refrigerated opaque bottles.
    Storage:
    • Store whole flaxseed up to a year in an airtight container in a dry, cool cabinet.
    • Store ground flaxseed in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 30 days or in freezer up to four months.
    Preparation Ideas:
    • Add ground flaxseed to hot or cold cereal, yogurt or smoothies.
    • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on salads or on top of cooked vegetables for a nutty flavor.
    • Include ground flaxseed in baked muffins or other quick breads.
    • Flaxseed may decrease absorption of medications, so take it one hour before or two hours after any prescription or non-prescription medicine. Talk to your physician or healthcare provider about use if taking fish oil, omega-three supplements or anticoagulant medications.
    • Drizzle flaxseed oil on salads or vegetables or in smoothies. Do not cook with flaxseed oil.

References

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  3. Taibi A, Lin Z, Tsao R, Thompson LU, Comelli EM. Effects of Flaxseed and Its Components on Mammary Gland MiRNome: Identification of Potential Biomarkers to Prevent Breast Cancer Development. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2656.
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  7. Thompson LU, Chen JM, Li T, Strasser-Weippl K, Goss PE. Dietary flaxseed alters tumor biological markers in postmenopausal breast cancer. Clin Cancer Res. 2005;11(10):3828-3835.
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  11. McCann SE, Wactawski-Wende J, Kufel K, et al. Changes in 2-hydroxyestrone and 16alpha-hydroxyestrone metabolism with flaxseed consumption: modification by COMT and CYP1B1 genotype. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16(2):256-262.
  12. Sturgeon SR, Heersink JL, Volpe SL, et al. Effect of dietary flaxseed on serum levels of estrogens and androgens in postmenopausal women. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60(5):612-618.
  13. Carayol M, Grosclaude P, Delpierre C. Prospective studies of dietary alpha-linolenic acid intake and prostate cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Cancer Causes Control. 2010;21(3):347-355.
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  15. Demark-Wahnefried W, Polascik TJ, George SL, et al. Flaxseed supplementation (not dietary fat restriction) reduces prostate cancer proliferation rates in men presurgery. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008;17(12):3577-3587.
  16. Ma Y, Hu M, Zhou L, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risks of proximal and distal colon cancers: A meta-analysis. Medicine. 2018;97(36):e11678.
  17. World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Diet, nutrition, physical activity and colorectal cancer. Available at: dietandcancerreport.org.
  18. Aune D, Chan DS, Greenwood DC, et al. Dietary fiber and breast cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Ann Oncol. 2012;23(6):1394-1402.
  19. Norat T, Chan D, Vingeliene S, et al. The Associations Between Food, Nutrition and Physical Activity and the Risk of Breast Cancer. WCRF/AICR Systematic Literature Review Continuous Update Project Report. London: World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research;2017.
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