The consumption of seaweed as a protective factor in the etiology of breast cancer: proof of principle

J Appl Phycol. 2013 Jun;25(3):771-779. doi: 10.1007/s10811-012-9931-0. Epub 2012 Nov 10.


Daily consumption of seaweed has been proposed as a factor in explaining lower postmenopausal breast cancer (BC) incidence and mortality rates in Japan. This clinical trial assessed the impact of introducing seaweed- to non-seaweed-consuming American postmenopausal women. Fifteen healthy postmenopausal women were recruited for a 3-month single-blinded placebo controlled clinical trial; five had no history of BC (controls) and ten were BC survivors. Participants ingested ten capsules daily (5 g day-1) of placebo for 4 weeks, seaweed (Undaria) for 4 weeks, then placebo for another 4 weeks. Blood and urine samples were collected after each treatment period. Urinary human urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor concentrations (uPAR) were analyzed by ELISA, and urine and serum were analyzed for protein expression using surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF-MS). Urinary creatinine standardized uPAR (in pg mL μg-1 creatinine) changed significantly between groups, decreasing by about half following seaweed supplementation (placebo 1, 1.5 (95 % CI, 0.9-2.1) and seaweed, 0.9 (95 % CI, 0.6-1.1) while placebo 2 returned to pre-seaweed concentration (1.7 (95 % CI, 1.2-2.2); p = 0.01, ANOVA). One SELDI-TOF-MS-identified urinary protein (m/z 9,776) showed a similar reversible decrease with seaweed and is reported to be associated with cell attachment. One serum protein (m/z 8,928) reversibly increased with seaweed and may be the immunostimulatory complement activation C3a des-arginine. uPAR is higher among postmenopausal women generally, and for BC patients, it is associated with unfavorable BC prognosis. By lowering uPAR, dietary seaweed may help explain lower BC incidence and mortality among postmenopausal women in Japan.

Keywords: Breast cancer; CM10 ProteinChip; Clinical trial; Human urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR); Surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization–time-of-flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF-MS); Undaria pinnatifida.