Zinc supplements may halt the rapid growth of esophageal cancer cells, according to a study that could lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for the disease. Previous studies have shown that zinc is essential for maintaining human health and protects the oesophagus or food pipe from cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington, U.S. discovered that zinc selectively halts the growth of cancer cells but not normal esophageal epithelial cells. “Zinc deficiency has been found in many cancer patients. Both clinical data and animal studies have shown that this mineral is very important for overall body health and for cancer prevention,” says Dr. Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing at UTA. The study, published in the FASEB Journal, found that zinc is an important element in many proteins and many enzymes and its absence makes it impossible for cells to function. “Our study, for the first time to our knowledge, reveals that zinc impedes overactive calcium signals in cancer cells, which is absent in normal cells, and thus zinc selectively inhibits cancer cell growth,” says Dr. Pan. “It now appears that zinc and calcium can have a cross talk, meaning that they can be linked.”
An insufficient amount of zinc can lead to the development of cancer and other diseases, the researchers say. “That is why it is important to have a good diet,” Dr. Pan adds. Zinc enriched foods include spinach, flax seeds, beef, pumpkin seeds and seafood like shrimp and oysters.