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Mustard Seed Puts the Heat on Bladder Cancer

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Mustard seed powder stops bladder cancer cell growth and invasion of surrounding tissues in rats.

A study with rats finds a plant compound abundant in mustard, horseradish and wasabi stopped the growth of bladder cancer by one-third and completely prevented metastasis - the cancer invasion of surrounding muscle tissue.  Additionally, the food tested - in this case, a mustard seed powder that naturally contains the allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) compound - was more effective at controlling the cancer than the purified form.

These animal findings show - at least in this case - that bladder tumors can be kept from spreading outside of the bladder. These new findings bolster others that show mustard seed has anti-cancer properties and support a rich history of its use in traditional Chinese and folk medicines. The authors suggest that further clinical "evaluation of this substance is warranted."

In people, bladder cancers are typically not life threatening unless they invade the surrounding muscles. This occurs in 15-30 percent of bladder cancer patients. The patients then require aggressive therapy, including bladder removal. Even then, survival rates are low.

Besides mustard, many other edibles from the cabbage family - known as cruciferous vegetables - contain AITC. Other relatives - such as cauliflower, broccoli and kale - are also known to lower overall cancer risk and supply important vitamins.

In tests using human cells, AITC selectively kills bladder cancer cells but leaves healthy bladder cells unharmed. When vegetables high in AITC are consumed, the AITC is mainly excreted in the urine, where it ends up in the bladder and works to prevent cancer.

Dry mustard seeds contain a highly stable compound similar to AITC called sinigrin. When water is added - as happens when the seeds are eaten - a seed-based enzyme converts the sinigrin to AITC. The human digestive tract has a related form of this enzyme but the plant-derived version is much more effective.