Olive Oil Health Benefits—Cancer

Weights OliveVarious studies have shown how olive oil may reduce the risk of several different types of cancer including colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.  Below provides some insight as to how adopting olive oil into your daily diet may reduce these risks for each of the cancers listed.

Past research has determined that oleic acid (the main component of olive oil) has the ability to reduce the effect of an oncogene.  The oncogene is a gene that has the ability to turn a host cell into a cancer cell.  Further, it has been associated with the rapid growth of breast cancer tumors. The conclusion of the research was that oleic acid, when combined with drug therapy, facilitated the self-destruction of aggressive, treatment-resistant cancer cells.  As a result, help to fight the cancer. Olive oil has been positively indicated in studies on prostate and endometrial cancers as well.

According to the American Heart Association, cancer rates are much higher when comparing the typical American diet to a high quantity of vegetables, fruits and whole grains diet.  The high quantity of vegetables, fruits and whole grain diet inherently is rich in monounsaturated fats.  Olive oil is a great source for monounsaturated fats.

Several studies have demonstrated the protective effects of olive oil in cancer treatment and prevention. One study concluded that “compelling evidence exists about the protective effect of olive oil consumption on the appearance and progression of some cancers, mainly those of the breast, colon, and prostate. Both its main monounsaturated fatty acid, OA (oleic acid), and some specific minor components could account for the biological effects of olive oil on the distinct stages of carcinogenesis through different molecular mechanisms of action.”
  1. Breast Cancer
    Some cell biology studies have concluded that olive oil slowed breast cancer in rats. A corn oil diet stimulated more cancers than a control diet, while olive oil led to fewer and smaller tumors than the control diet. These same studies confirmed that the polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil are effective in combating breast cancer cells of the HER-2 type. The research specifically pointed out that only extra virgin olive oil, which is not heated or refined, would contain these beneficial polyphenols.
  2. Colon Cancer
    Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in America. Animal studies have shown that dietary fats increase the development of colon tumors. The fact that the typical American diet is high in fats seems to correlate with the high incidence of colon cancer among Americans as opposed to the rest of the world.
Test studies have shown how olive oil can safeguard against colon cancer compared to other oils. The tests studied the effects of a diet rich in safflower, fish oil or olive oil on rats, which had been given a chemical that accelerates cancer in the bowel. After five months, twice as many rats in the safflower group had developed tumors as the rats in the other two groups. In fact, the rats that received olive oil had colon cancer rates almost as low as those fed fish oil, which several studies have already linked to a reduction in colon cancer risk.

It is not known what specific property of olive oil lowers the incidence of bowel tumors. Olive oil is a fatty acid, which is primarily monounsaturated, with a different structure from safflower and fish oil. Dietary olive oil was shown to help prevent colon cancer development.
  1. Ovarian Cancer
    In 2002, a study of women who were fed more olive oil had better protection against ovarian cancer. The study looked at the diets of nearly 3,500 women: 1,031 with ovarian cancer, and 2,411 without cancer. The women who consumed the highest amount of olive oil (up to three quarters of an ounce daily) had the lowest rate of ovarian cancer, reduced 30% from the average.
  2. Prostate Cancer
    Various cancer health sites recommend eating olive oil to combat prostate cancer. An olive oil rich diet seems to be protective against prostate cancer due to the high levels of antioxidants found in olive oil.
  3. Skin Cancer
    A 2001 study found that hairless mice exposed to damaging doses of sunlight, and then soothed with olive oil developed fewer skin cancers. We don't know if people's skin will react the same as hairless mice, but it is likely that the antioxidants in olive oil could help prevent cancer in humans too. Sunlight damages DNA and creates free radicals that cause oxidative damage. Olive oil has polyphenols and other natural antioxidants that could prevent the type of damage that leads to cancer.
A more recent study from Ireland demonstrated the role of olive oil in an anti-cancer diet. It seems that the lycopene of tomatoes is more effectively utilized to prevent skin cancer when combined in the diet with olive oil. These foods eaten together provided the equivalent of a low factor sunscreen of protection to the study participants.