Cancer: Liquorice may play a role in treating and preventing cancer finds new study

Prostate cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye discusses symptoms

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Two recent reports paint a bleak picture of the UK’s fight against cancer. The first report to come out warned the pandemic may have put survival rates into “reverse”. The second found more patients are diagnosed with cancer in an emergency in the UK than any other high-income comparable country. A new study does provide cause for optimism, however.

Liquorice – known for the popular sweet – may play a role in preventing or treating certain types of cancer, according to researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Gnanasekar Munirathinam, an associate professor at the College of Medicine Rockford and his research team are studying substances derived from the liquorice plant Glycyrrhiza glabra to determine if they could be used to prevent or stop the growth of prostate cancer.

A research review into molecular insights of a liquorice-derived substance called glycyrrhizin for preventing or treating cancer conducted by Doctor Munirathinam and student researchers suggests further research could lead to specific agents for clinical use.

“When we look at the research out there and our own data, it appears that glycyrrhizin and its derivative glycyrrhetinic acid have great potential as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents,” Professor Munirathinam said.

“More research is needed into exactly how these could best be used to develop therapies, but this appears to be a promising area of cancer research.”

This is not a licence to go out and bing on liquorice, however.

The popular confectionary may affect blood pressure, interact with certain medications, and cause serious adverse effects, including death, when used excessively.

An occasional sweet treat of liquorice candy or tea may be better options until more studies can show how to best harness the plant’s benefits.

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“Very few clinical trials in humans have been conducted,” Munirathinam said.

“We hope our research on prostate cancer cells advances the science to the point where therapies can be translated to help prevent or even cure prostate and other types of cancer.”

Proven ways to reduce your risk of cancer

Risk factors cannot always be modified for cancer but there are things you can do that make getting cancer less likely.

Not smoking is the biggest thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer.

Cancer Research UK explains: “Chemicals in cigarette smoke get in to our blood stream and can cause damage around the body.”

Therefore, if you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is quit.

According to Cancer Research UK, having healthy food and drink can reduce your risk of cancer.

“Aim to have plenty of fruit and vegetables, foods high in fibre and healthy proteins,” advises the charity.

It continues: “Cut down on processed and red meat, and high calorie foods and drinks.”

Researchers have found processed meat increases your risk of cancers of the bowel.

Processed meat is meat that’s been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives.

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