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Pomegranate which extract is linked with anticancer properties

Pomegranate and Cancer

Compounds found in pomegranate have been shown to help prevent the development and spread of malignant cells in lab studies. While more research is needed, these findings indicate additional benefits from pomegranate that extend beyond heart health.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Tennoy V., MD, in August 2023. Written by: Ronnie Cortez.

While pomegranate is best known for heart health,1,2 additional studies reveal its potential to help guard against cancer.3-6

Scientists have determined that compounds found in pomegranate can deter cancer formation and progression.

Pomegranate contains compounds that circumvent functional changes involved in malignant cell transformation. In preclinical studies, it stopped cancer cells from growing and spreading.4,5

What you need to know

  • Pomegranate contains several beneficial compounds with powerful anti-cancer properties.
  • It has been shown to interfere with pathways that promote the development of cancer, while also contributing to mechanisms that inhibit the growth and spread of existing cancer.
  • Studies show that pomegranate holds promise in the fight against cancers of the prostate, breast, colon, liver, lung, and more.
  • Pomegranate has also been shown, in preclinical studies, to boost the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs while protecting against their harmful side effects.

Cancer Prevention

Image of Pomegranate

Pomegranates contain compounds that have a positive impact on health.

These include punicalagin, luteolin, ellagitannins, and assorted polyphenols that can impede many steps involved in the formation, growth, and spread of cancer. 4,5

Rather than preventing cancer by a single mechanism, pomegranate blocks many different targets. A primary mechanism is to inhibit inflammation.

Pomegranate accomplishes this by turning off genes related to inflammation, such as reducing activity of pro-inflammatory NF-kappaB.9,10

Such actions can help to prevent the formation of cancer cells. In one study, pomegranate significantly reduced the formation of tumor growths in the lungs of mice exposed to cigarette smoke over a long period of time.11

It also reduced cancer formation in the breast tissue of mice exposed to a known carcinogen (DMBA), a type of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon found in cigarette smoke and overcooked meat.12,13

How Pomegranate Fights Cancer

In addition to preventing cancer from developing, in preclinical studies, pomegranate has shown multiple effects that help block the growth of existing cancer cells and prevent them from spreading. These effects include:4,5

  • Blocking the cell cycle: Pomegranate can shut off a cancer cell's ability to divide, limiting its growth by affecting multiple genes related to the cell cycle (the cell's pattern of growth). However, it does not block healthy cells from dividing normally.
  • Inducing cell death: Compounds in pomegranate directly cause cancer cells to die by inducing apoptosis (programmed cell death).
  • Stopping new blood vessels that feed cancer: Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Cancer cells require new blood vessels in order to support their growth with an ample blood supply. Pomegranate blocks growth factors related to angiogenesis, which limits the formation of new blood vessels in tumors.
  • Preventing cancer spread: Cancer cells are often able to separate from other cells and migrate through tissues, eventually spreading to distant organs in the body. Pomegranate limits a cancer cell's ability to spread by affecting gene expression related to invasion, migration, and metastasis.

Taken together, the various compounds found in pomegranate appear tailor-made for preventing cancer and reducing its spread by attacking these diseased cells at many steps of their development and growth.

Pomegranate and Prostate Cancer

There are promising studies on pomegranate's anti-cancer actions against prostate cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the U.S.6,14

One study showed that a prominent polyphenol (called punicalagin) found abundantly in pomegranate blocks the growth of human prostate cancer cells, while also inducing cell death by apoptosis.15

In another study, a pomegranate extract initiated prostate cancer cell death by apoptosis.16 It also limited the ability of these cells to migrate, suggesting it can help prevent the spread of prostate cancer.

Animal Studies

In a study published in the journal Carcinogenesis, researchers implanted human prostate cancer cells into mice with impaired immune function.17

They found that pomegranate compounds (luteolin, punicic acid, and ellagic acid) significantly inhibited the growth and spread of highly invasive prostate tumors.

Specifically, the tumors from treated mice were approximately 25% smaller.

The tumors metastasized in 5 out of 7 mice that did not receive the pomegranate supplement. None of the mice receiving the pomegranate compounds experienced tumor spread.

Human Studies

Woman getting breast exam

Some of the most exciting research on pomegranate demonstrates its ability to slow the increase of PSA, a blood protein that is a marker of the progression of prostate cancer as well as an indicator of response to treatment.

One study evaluated the effect of pomegranate juice on PSA levels in men after they had been treated for prostate cancer.7

All patients had rising levels of PSA prior to intervention, an indication that their cancer was very likely progressing. But following supplementation with pomegranate, the rate of PSA increase was slower.

This suggests that pomegranate slowed cancer growth.

A subsequent study confirmed the finding that pomegranate extract slowed the rate at which PSA levels increased.8

More human studies are urgently needed.

Pomegranate and Breast Cancer

Woman wearing Breast Cancer awareness Ribbon

Preclinical studies using pomegranate have demonstrated effects against breast cancer.

Research shows that pomegranate can prevent breast cancer cell growth, induce cancer cell death, block inflammation, and reduce the potential for breast cancer cells to spread.4

Pomegranate may also prevent the initial formation of breast cancer. In one study, researchers administered a cancer-causing toxin to rats to induce breast cancer.10 They found that supplementation with pomegranate blocked many of the harmful effects of the toxin. This included altering pathways in cells related to inflammation and oxidative stress.

An extract of pomegranate was also found to prevent the migration of breast cancer cells and to induce cell death.18

Additional Anti-Cancer Effects

In addition to targeting pathways that promote breast and prostate cancer, pomegranate has demonstrated, in preclinical studies, beneficial effects against several other types of cancer.

Studies confirm pomegranate's anti-cancer activity in cell and animal models of leukemia, as well as in cancer of the bladder, brain, cervix, colon/rectum, liver, lung, ovaries, skin, and thyroid.4,5,19,20

Pomegranate is also being explored as an adjuvant to conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy. It has been shown to bolster the effect of such treatments, while also offering protection against some of their deleterious side effects.21

For example, a chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil is commonly used in the treatment of various forms of cancer. This drug often causes side effects, such as damaging the lining of the intestines.

A study in rats revealed that combining a pomegranate extract with fluorouracil protected the intestinal lining from fluorouracil-induced injury.21 The combined treatment also enhanced the cancer-killing effect of the drug, killing more cancer cells than using chemotherapy alone.


Pomegranate contains compounds that attack cancer cells in cultures by several different mechanisms.

Its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

In preclinical and animal models, pomegranate has been shown to reduce existing cancer cell growth, induce cell death, prevent blood vessel growth associated with tumors, and inhibit the spread of cancer cells in the body.

Pomegranate shows promise to help combat some of the most common types of cancer and may potentially boost the effectiveness of existing cancer chemotherapy treatments. More research clearly needs to be done.

Individuals concerned about cancer should consider adding a pomegranate extract (standardized to 30% punicalagins and 22% punicic acid) to their supplement regimen.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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