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November 2003

Maintains Bones, Joints, Neurons and May Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk
by Stephen B. Strum, M.D., FACP
Medical Oncologist Specializing in Prostate Cancer

As our knowledge of biological systems has increased over the past ten years, a greater understanding of the importance of cellular communication and balance has been reached. The integrative nature of medicine, so characteristic of biological orchestration, has now come to embrace the use of substances that a few decades ago were hardly recognized as important to human health.

Coenzyme Q10, acetyl L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, lycopene, selenium, and gamma tocopherol are a few examples of new players in the biologic symphony. Boron can now be added to our list of vital nutrients in the orchestration of health.

While boron has long been known to promote healthy bone density, new research shows that it can shrink prostate tumor size, lower PSA, and may help to prevent prostate cancer. Additional findings show that boron alleviates joint discomfort and preserves cognitive function. The good news is that this low-cost mineral has been added to the most popular supplements that Foundation members are already taking.


Boron reduces prostate cancer incidence by up to 64%
In a study by Zhang et al, men who ingested the greatest amount of boron were 64% less likely to develop prostate cancer (PC) compared to men who consumed the least amount of boron (see Figure 1). This information was presented at the annual Experimental Biology conference in Florida in 2001.1 The study, from the Cancer Epidemiology Training Program at the UCLA School of Public Health, compared dietary patterns of 76 men with prostate cancer to that of 7,651 males without cancer. The greater the quantity of boron-rich foods consumed, the greater the reduction in risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those men consuming the most boron (i.e., in the upper quartile of boron consumption) had a 64% reduction in prostate cancer, while men in the second quartile had a 35% reduction in risk and those in the third quartile reduced their risk by 24%. Men in the lowest quartile of boron consumption ate roughly one slice of fruit per day, while those in the highest quartile consumed 3.5 servings of fruit per day plus one serving of nuts. Boron-rich foods include plums, grapes, prunes, avocados, and nuts such as almonds and peanuts. A serving of 100 grams of prunes (12 dried prunes) has 2-3 mg of boron and 6.1 grams of fiber.2

FIGURE 1. Lower Prostate Cancer Risk Associated with Boron Consumption.
Those men consuming the most boron had the greatest protective effect against the development of prostate cancer. Sources of boron include non-citrus fruits like dried prunes, plums, grapes, raisins, nuts such as almonds and peanuts, red wine, and coffee. No protective effect of boron was noted against breast, colorectal, uterine, cervical, or skin cancers.18

Boric acid acts to inhibit serine proteases—it decreases PSA by 87% and reduces tumor size in a prostate cancer mouse model
The mechanism of boron’s effect on reducing prostate cancer incidence in the study by Zhang et al previously cited is not known. However, a preliminary report on the effect of boric acid (boron) solutions given to mice bearing the human prostate cancer cell-line called LNCaP may shed some light on this mechanism. In a study published in the 2002 Proceedings of the American Association of Cancer Research, Gallardo-Williams et al indicated that mice receiving 1.7 or 9.0 mg/kg/day of boric acid solution orally had decreases in tumor size by 38% and 25%, respectively.3 The same groups had drops in PSA (prostate-specific antigen) of 88.6% and 86.4%, respectively. The control group receiving only water had no drop in PSA or decrease in tumor size.

Additional findings of interest included a decreased amount of mitoses in the mice treated with boric acid compared to the control group. Mitoses reflect chromosomes or genetic material that are in the process of cell division. Mitotic figures can be seen using a conventional microscope; the greater the number of mitoses, the greater the intensity of cell division and tumor growth (see Figure 2). The authors also found that the histochemical expression of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor type 1) was markedly reduced by boron treatment. Circulating blood levels of IGF-1 were not reduced in the treated mice, however.

FIGURE 2: Mitoses in Prostate Cancer Biopsy. Mitoses (also called mitotic figures) may be easily found using the light microscope. If mitoses are abundant in number, it can be presumed that the proliferative rate of the tumor is high. High mitotic rates are seen with more aggressive histologic grades of prostate cancer.

This study by Gallardo-Williams is of potentially great significance and the rationale for such a study merits further discussion. The authors’ evaluation of boric acid was based on a hypothesis that relates to the important finding that PSA is not only a biomarker of prostate cancer activity but also a functional enzyme produced by prostate cancer cells that acts to promote its very own tumor growth.10 My interpretation of their hypothesis is as follows:

  • PSA is an enzyme (a serine protease) that frees IGF-1 from insulin-like growth factor binding protein.
  • IGF-1 has been shown to promote the growth of prostate cancer.
  • A reduction in PSA’s enzymatic activity should decrease the amount of IGF-1. This in turn should decrease prostate cancer growth.
  • Boric acid is a known inhibitor of several serine proteases.
  • Blood boric acid levels as low as 8 mcg/ml can inhibit the proteolytic activity of PSA (authors’ separate work).
  • Boric acid administration should therefore reduce PSA.
  • This reduction of PSA should be accompanied by decreased expression of IGF-1 and decreased tumor growth.

This report apparently has led to further clinical trials now in progress.

The anti-cancer effect of boron compounds has been the subject of prior studies that involved tumor cell lines of human malignancies grown in culture. These studies are summarized in Table 1.

Cancer Cell Type(s) Effect on Tumor Cell
Boron Compound(s) Reference

Acute lymphocytic leukemiaChronic lymphocytic leukemia

Growth inhibition after treatment with boron compounds

dihydroxy (oxybiguanido) boron (iii) hydrochloride monohydrate (HB)

guanidine biboric acid adduct (GB)

hydroxosalicyl hydroxomato boron (iii) (SHB)


Ehrlich ascites tumor

Significant anti-tumor action that was further increased by combining with ultrasound therapy

dihydroxy (oxybiguanido) boron (III) hydrochloride monohydrate


Ehrlich ascites tumor

Significantly increased survival time

guanidine biboric acid adduct (GB)


L1210 murine leukemia cellsDU-145 prostate
cancer cellsA549 lung
carcinoma cellsMCF-7 breast
cancer cells

inhibited DNA synthesis

Borato-1,2-diaminocyclohexane platinum (II) (BDP)


LNCaP prostate
cancer cells

Reduced PSA by 86-89% and reduced tumor volume by 25-38%; mitoses and IGF-1 decreased in tissue studies

Boric acid solution


Mouse and human leukemiasHuman uterine,
colon, and lung
adenocarcinomasHuman gliomas

Inhibited growth

Amino-o-carborane-hydrochloride 7


Murine and human leukemia Uterine carcinoma tumor cell lines

Potent in vivo antineoplastic activity and in vitro cytotoxicity

Adenosine 5’[N,N-di-(gamma-o-carboranyl)propyl] phosphorodiamidate 1


TABLE 1. Anti-Cancer Activity of Boron. Studies of the anti-cancer efficacy of a number of boron compounds against a wide range of tumor cell lines (shown above) warrant clinical trials in humans.


Calcium-Magnesium <=> Boron Interactions
A large number of experiments conducted in humans involving boron supplementation or deprivation show that boron is vitally involved in bone metabolism. It is well accepted that calcium and magnesium are important constituents or building blocks of healthy bone. In situations of adequate calcium supply but deficient magnesium resources, boron appears to substitute or “pinch hit” for magnesium during the process of bone formation. Under such conditions, the concentration of boron within bone tissue increases.

Boron’s effect on bone appears to be mediated by its ability to reduce the urinary excretion of calcium and also magnesium. In situations where adequate boron intake rather than boron depletion prevails, the net effect of boron is to raise ionized calcium levels. This effect of boron—to preserve calcium and decrease urinary losses of calcium—is caused by its actions on the kidney.

As stated above, this calcium-preserving effect of boron becomes pronounced in circumstances in which dietary magnesium is low. With this biologic effect, boron is acting as a backup system to preserve calcium in the blood and reduce urinary calcium loss. In effect, boron acts literally and figuratively as a “bodyguard” to preserve calcium and magnesium in situations of nutritional stress that would otherwise adversely affect metabolic processes involved with these substances.11