Foods that Fight Cancer: Mushrooms


Sautéed as part of a stir fry or added to soups and sauces, mushrooms add a depth of flavour to your favourite dishes.  Luckily for you, they do more than make your taste buds happy - it turns out they pack a major health-promoting punch as well! 


A recent study out of the University of Perth in Australia looked at 2000 Chinese women to investigate the effects of mushroom intake on cancer risk.  Taking into account variance for obesity, exercise, and smoking, the study ultimately found some amazing results – women who consumed more than 10 grams of mushrooms daily were 64% less likely to develop breast cancer.  Additionally, if that was paired with green tea consumption, the protective effect increased to an incredible 89%!1


Mushrooms are so effective at reducing breast cancer risk because they block an enzyme called aromatase, which promotes estrogen production.  And any mushroom will do it – from white button, cremini, and portabello to the more exotic maitake, shitake, enoki, and reishi varieties.  Beyond their effects on estrogen, mushrooms also contain long-chain sugar complexes, called polysaccharides, which boost the immune system, activate anti-tumor responses, induce cancer cell death, and block metastasis – the spread of cancer cells in the body.2 


Although these results are indeed impressive, they aren’t necessarily new.  Mushrooms have been studied for years for their anti-cancer effects.  One of the most effective natural cancer therapies for increasing white blood cell counts is using a mushroom extract – potent compounds isolated for their specific effects on the immune system.  These compounds – PSK and PSP – can be used in a cancer treatment protocol to fight tumor growth, increase white blood cell counts, and improve overall energy.3  Adding PSK to adjuvant Uracil treatment in stage 2 and 3 colon cancer patients reduced cancer recurrence by 43% and mortality by 40%.4  And in gastric cancers, the addition of PSK was shown in one study to improve 5-year disease-free rates by 10% and 5-year survival rates by 13%.5  Mushroom extracts have been used to treat other cancers as well, including cancers of the breast, ovaries, and bladder.   


Incorporating mushroom extracts into your cancer treatment may improve your health, energy, and your outcomes.  Book an appointment with me today at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph to learn more about how to use mushrooms medicinally, or other ways that naturopathic medicine can help you!  And in the meantime, go ahead and ramp up your mushroom intake and know that you are doing something proactive to decrease your cancer risk!


In health,


Aleksandra Gasinski, ND




  1.  Zhang, M., et al., Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women. Int J Cancer, 2009. 15: p. 1404-1408. 
  2. Maehara Y et al. Biological mechanism and clinical effect of protein-bound polysaccharide K (KRESTIN): review of development and future perspectives. Surgery Today, 2012. 42(1):8-28. 
  3. Ooi, V.E. and F. Liu, Immunomodulation and anti-cancer activity of polysaccharide-protein complexes. Current Medicinal Chemistry, 2000. 7(7): p. 715-29. 
  4. Ohwada S et al. Adjuvant immunochemotherapy with oral Tegafur/Uracil plus PSK in patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer: a randomized controlled study. British J of Cancer, 2004. 90:1003-1010.
  5. Nakazato, H., et al., Efficacy of immunochemotherapy as adjuvant treatment after curative resection of gastric cancer. The Lancet, 1994. 343: p. 1122-1126. 

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