Beneficial Influence of Diets Enriched with Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil on Cancer

  • Ashleigh K. Wiggins
  • Julie K. Mason
  • Lilian U. ThompsonEmail author
Part of the Evidence-based Anticancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine book series (ACAM, volume 5)


Dietary flaxseed and flaxseed oil are commonly consumed for their suggested anticancer effects. Flaxseed oil has an exceptionally high level of the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid and flaxseed is also the richest dietary source of phytoestrogens called lignans. This chapter provides information on flaxseed and flaxseed oil, including their composition and effects on the prevention and treatment of cancer. The major focus is on the effects in breast, colorectal and prostate cancer as observed in preclinical studies in cell culture and animal models, epidemiological and clinical studies. Limited studies on the effects in other forms of cancer are also discussed. Recent evidence supporting a potential anticancer role of flaxseed and flaxseed oil is for breast cancer. Extensive studies in rodent models suggest that flaxseed and its oil can reduce the various stages of carcinogenesis and there is increasing support from epidemiological and clinical studies. Studies in rodent models also suggest that flaxseed and its oil do not interfere with and may rather enhance the action of breast cancer drugs, including tamoxifen and trastuzumab. Regarding colorectal and prostate cancer, there are fewer studies with less consistent results. However, a protective effect is shown in general studies. The research in other forms of cancer is limited, inconsistent and warrants further investigation. Potential mechanisms of the action of flaxseed oil including effects on the properties of the cell membrane, the regulation of transcription, lipid peroxidation and others are discussed. Safety of diets enriched in flaxseed and flaxseed oil and flaxseed’s regulatory status are outlined. Current limitations in the research and future directions are provided.


Breast Cancer Prostate Cancer Breast Cancer Risk Aberrant Crypt Focus Colorectal Cancer Incidence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashleigh K. Wiggins
    • 1
  • Julie K. Mason
    • 1
  • Lilian U. Thompson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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