Cancers of the bilary tract, including gallbladder cancer and extrahepatic bile duct cancer, though not the most common cancers, are especially concerning because they are hard to treat and highly lethal. Green tea has been shown in several studies to be an important cancer fighter. Early, small studies of green tea and bilary tract cancer have been inconsistent, leaving green tea’s role in preventing these cancers as not very well understood. Test tube (in vitro) studies have suggested that an active ingredient of green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)) can inhibit growth of gallbladder and bile duct cancers. So, researchers in Japan set out to see if green tea could prevent bilary duct cancer. . . .

They looked at two kinds of green tea that are commonly drank in Japan—sencha and bancha/genmaicha—and also at coffee.

The huge study followed 89,555 people between the ages of 45 and 74. The researchers found that drinking over 720ml a day of green tea was associated with a significant 33% reduction in risk of bilary tract cancer. At lower amounts, increasing the amount of green tea drank was associated with a nonsignificant tend toward decreased risk. There was no reduction in risk from drinking coffee.

This study suggests that drinking a lot of green tea may lower the risk of bilary tract cancers: a potentially important finding for a cancer for which so little is known about prevention and treatment.

The researchers suggest that the effect may be due to the EGCG in green tea, but they also allow for the possibility that the folic acid and vitamin C in green tea could be contributing to its protective effect since both have been shown in studies to protect against bilary tract cancers.

Cancer Sci 2016;107(1):76-83

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