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Can Berberine Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk?

Feb 18, 2020


A well designed clinical study has shown that use of the plant-derived natural compound Berberine in individuals who have had removal of colon adenomas (polyps) is safe and effective in reducing recurrence of colon polyps. Hence, berberine use may help in chemoprevention of colorectal adenoma (formation of polyps in the colon) and colorectal cancer.

With the growing aging population, the incidence of cancer is on the rise, and despite the advances and innovation in cancer treatments, the disease is able to outsmart all the treatment modalities in a large number of patients. The aggressive and targeted treatment options that help with controlling and eliminating the cancer cells also cause a lot of harsh, adverse and sometimes irreversible side-effects. Cancer patients and their loved ones are always on the lookout for using alternative natural therapy to alleviate and protect from the chemotherapy side-effects, boost immunity and well being.

Berberine Use in Cancer

Berberine and Cancer

A natural compound Berberine, found in several herbals such as Barberry, Goldenseal and others, has been used in traditional chinese medicine for its numerous beneficial properties including: anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, immune enhancing, regulating blood sugar and lipids, helping with digestive and gastrointestinal issues and others. The property of Berberine to regulate sugar levels, the key fuel source for a cancer cell survival, along with its anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing properties, make this plant-derived supplement a potential anti-cancer adjuvant. There have been umpteen studies in many different cancer cell lines and animal models that have confirmed the anti-cancer effects of Berberine.

Use of Berberine for Colorectal Adenoma Recurrence (Polyps in Colon – Precursors of Colon Cancer)

A recent clinical study funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China prospectively tested the use of Berberine in chemoprevention of colorectal adenoma (formation of polyps in the colon) and colorectal cancer. This randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled trial was done in 7 hospital centers across 6 provinces in China. (NCT02226185) Individuals recruited for this study had undergone removal of multiple polyps in the colon within 6 months prior to starting the study. They were randomly assigned to two groups, with 553 individuals receiving Berberine (0.3 grams, twice daily) and 555 individuals receiving a placebo tablet. Participants had to undergo follow-up colonoscopy at 1-year and 2-year timepoints post enrollment. The primary endpoint of the study was assessment of recurrence of polyps in the colon in any of the follow-up colonoscopy. (Chen Y-X et al, The Lancet gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2020)

India to New York for Cancer Treatment | Need for Personalized Nutrition-specific to Cancer

Key Findings

The finding of this study was that 155 individuals (36%) in the Berberine group had recurrent polyps while in the placebo group this number was much higher with 216 (47%) individuals having recurrent polyps (adenoma). No colorectal cancers were detected during follow-up. The most common adverse event was constipation seen in 1% of patients in the Berberine group and 0.5% in the placebo group. There were no serious adverse events reported with Berberine use.

The key take-away from this clinical study is that 0.3 grams of Berberine taken twice daily was found to be safe and effective in reducing the risk of recurrence of colorectal adenomas (polyps). Since there were no serious side-effects, use of Berberine could be a possible cancer preventive option for individuals who have had polypectomy (removal of polyps from colon).

Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.