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Monday, 19 August, 2002, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Mushroom magic fights cancer
Mushroom
Edible mushrooms may help fight disease
Exotic mushrooms may hold chemicals which could help scientists develop new cancer drugs, it is claimed.

Cancer Research UK has researched the use of mushrooms in traditional medicines in Asia.

Research there suggests that some have anti-tumour properties.

Trials in the US, Japan and China suggest that chemical compounds derived from fungi may prolong the survival of cancer patients.

However, some trials carried out in the Far East may have to be repeated elsewhere before scientists are convinced of their findings.

Death rates

One survey of Japanese mushroom workers found that those who produced edible mushrooms - suggesting consumption by workers - had a far lower death rate from cancer than those who produced non-edible mushrooms.


Compounds derived from mushrooms could have a hugely beneficial influence on the way cancer is treated

Dr Richard Sullivan, Cancer Research UK
"Medicinal mushrooms" may also be able to relieve the side-effects suffered by patients with advanced cancer.

Dr Richard Sullivan, from Cancer Research UK, said: "A vast amount of information has been collated which suggests that compounds derived from mushrooms could have a hugely beneficial influence on the way cancer is treated."

While there is evidence that extracts of rarer mushrooms such as shiitake, enoke and oyster may be beneficial, the humble British button or flat mushroom is likely to possess none of these abilities.

Remedies

More than 100 species are used by traditional Chinese medicine practioners to form remedies for a wide variety of ailments.

They are often taken as powdered concentrates or extracts in hot water drinks.

Professor John Smith, from the University of Strathclyde, who led the review, said: "There is now increasing evidence that the medicinal mushrooms offer a remarkable array of medicinally important compounds that have yet to be evaluated by western medical scientists."

See also:

19 Apr 99 | Health
29 Dec 01 | Health
12 Jun 98 | Health
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