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Can Licorice Lick Cancer?

By John Salak


Licorice may soon become the flavor of the day when it comes to fighting prostate cancer.

Substances derived from the licorice plant glycyrrhiza glabra may be able to prevent or stop the growth of prostate cancer, according to researchers at the University of Illinois.

While far from a done deal, the initial research offers promise to the more than 250,000 people who get prostate cancer each year and the almost 35,000 who die from the disease annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Does this mean people should hit their nearby candy store, grab a bunch of licorice, and start munching away? That’s probably not a good idea for all sorts of reasons, including but not limited to the candy’s impact on blood pressure, its potential interactions with certain medications and the possibility of even more side effects.  The potential benefits will come from a licorice-derived substance called glycyrrhizin, not the flavored candy.

Yet that doesn’t mean the research team isn’t on to something.

“When we look at the research out there and our data, it appears that glycyrrhizin and its derivative glycyrrhetinic acid have great potential as anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer agents,” explained Dr. Gnanasekar Munirathinam, who led the study. “More research is needed into how these could best be used to develop therapies, but this appears to be a promising area of cancer research.”

“Very few clinical trials in humans have been conducted,” he added. “We hope our research on prostate cancer cells advances the science to the point where therapies can be translated to help prevent or even cure prostate and other types of cancer.”

In the meantime, Munirathinam and his colleagues aren’t telling people to abstain from licorice. It’s all a matter of taste but keep consumption in moderation.

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