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Garlic showing promise as anti-cancer agent


'It can't hurt' doctor says

July 21, 1997
Web posted at: 5:29 p.m. EDT (2129 GMT)

PITTSBURGH (CNN) -- Garlic has been touted for its medicinal powers for more than 2,000 years, but scientists are just now confirming that this pungent member of the onion family is good for more than just cooking.

Several studies now show that chemical compounds in garlic can help prevent the formation of cancerous tumors in mice.

One study, at the Mercy Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh, shows that garlic can help slow the growth of tumors.

vxtreme "CNN's Al Hinman reports"

"We have shown that some of these compounds prevent cancer in animals, and we hope that's the case in humans," said Shivendra Singh of the institute.

"We know how these garlic compounds are inhibiting cancer, but whether or not they have some kind of specificity for certain types of tumors, that remains to be seen," he said.

Other studies, some of them at West Virginia University, have found that garlic can inhibit the growth of breast cancer.


Also, says Dr. Donald Lamm of West Virginia University, "garlic very significantly reduced the growth of bladder tumors in mice."

Researchers at the university think garlic may help boost the immune system in laboratory mice, thereby reducing the growth of cancerous cells.

'It can't hurt'

Whether it works on humans remains to be seen. The researchers in Pittsburgh hope to launch experiments involving humans, perhaps as soon as next year.

Doug Blair, who says he won a fight with prostate cancer, isn't waiting for the results of those tests before he makes up his mind. Blair has already added garlic to his daily mega-doses of vitamins.

"I would definitely move to increase my intake of garlic," he says. "I mean, so far as we know, you only get one life, right?"

Other studies show that garlic may prevent everything from the common cold to heart disease. And if doctors are not yet ready to prescribe garlic as a panacea, they can understand why people like Blair are adding it to their regimen.

"It's non-toxic and it's relatively inexpensive," Lamm said. "And I think it's clear from all the centuries of experience that garlic has a number of benefits. It can't hurt."


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