(NaturalNews) The adult esophagus is only about 10 to 13 inches long and three fourths of an inch across at its smallest point. However, this small muscular tube is a critical part of the digestive system. When you eat, your esophagus carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. Cancer of the esophagus, also known as esophageal cancer, starts from its inner layer and grows outward on a deadly course. When it strikes, esophageal cancer is almost always fatal because it is usually diagnosed only at a late stage. According to the American Cancer Society, about 14,280 Americans died from the disease in 2008.
But there's good news about a way to fight this cancer. Scientists have found that a natural and delicious substance could help prevent the malignancy in the first place and kill cancer cells in the esophagus when they appear -- black raspberries.
Research just published in the American Association for Cancer Research's Cancer Prevention Research identifies a class of flavonoids called anthocyanins in black raspberries that's been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth and stimulate apoptosis (the death of cancer cells) in the esophagus of rats treated with an esophageal carcinogen. "Our data provide strong evidence that anthocyanins are important for cancer prevention," the study's lead author, Gary D. Stoner, Ph.D., a professor in the department of internal medicine at Ohio State University, said in a statement to the media.
Anthrocyanins have already been shown in the lab to have cancer fighting potential but this was one of the first studies to look at cancer prevention and black raspberry flavonoid extract in animals. Dr. Stoner and his Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center research team fed rats an anthocyanin-rich extract of black raspberries which proved to be almost as effective in preventing esophageal cancer in rats as whole black raspberries containing the same concentration of anthocyanins.
Dr. Stoner and his colleagues previously conducted clinical research in humans that showed some promising results. However, the trials were difficult because they required patients to take up to 60 grams of powdered raspberries a day. The new animal study is important because it shows that the extracted anthocyanins in berries are almost as active as whole berries themselves. And that could make treatment with the natural fruit substance literally easier for esophageal cancer patients to swallow.
"We hope to be able to prevent cancer in humans using a standardized mixture of anthocyanins," Dr. Stoner said in the media release. "The goal is to potentially replace whole berry powder with its active components and then figure out better ways to deliver these components to tissues, to increase their uptake and effectiveness. Ultimately, we hope to test the anthocyanins for effectiveness in multiple organ sites in humans."
Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA's "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic's "Men's Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.