New research has found that a common dietary supplement, which also occurs naturally in red wine and red grapes, could potentially be used to prevent breast cancer.
Resveratrol, which is sold in extract form as a dietary supplement, suppresses the creation of tumour cells that lead to most types of breast cancer, suggesting a potential role for the substance as a preventative treatment.
It works by blocking the way oestrogen combines with DNA to create the cancer, with even low levels of the chemical being enough to create the effect. Many breast cancers are fuelled by increased oestrogen, which collects and reacts with DNA molecules to form adducts.
"Resveratrol has the ability to prevent the first step in the process by blocking the formation of the oestrogen DNA adducts," said Professor Eleanor Rogan, who led the research at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in the US.
Professor Rogan, whose team published the findings in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, said resveratrol works by inducing an enzyme called quinone reductase, which reduces the oestrogen metabolite back to inactive form and decreases the risk of cancer.
The researchers now plan to test their findings in larger human trials.