Avocados Help Stop Oral Cancers

Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered that nutrients in avocados have the ability to fight oral cancer cells. Phytochemicals extracted from Hass avocados were shown to kill or prevent the growth of pre-cancerous cells that lead to oral cancers.

ÈAs far as we know, this is the first study of avocados and oral cancer,È says Lead author Steven M. D’Ambrosio. ÈWe think these phytochemicals either stop the growth of precancerous cells in the body or they kill the precancerous cells without affecting normal cells. Our study focuses on oral cancer, but the findings might have implications for other types of cancer. These are preliminary findings, and more research is needed.È

D’Ambrosio is a member of the molecular carcinogenesis and chemoprevention program at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

He found that the phytochemicals aim at multiple signaling pathways, and raise the amount of reactive oxygen within the cells, leading to cell death in pre-cancerous cell lines. But these phytochemicals did not harm normal cells.

Nutrition Value

A medium size avocado contains around 15% of the United States FDA’s recommended daily amount of fat, although they are high in monounsaturated fat. An avocado also contains 60% more potassium than a bananas, and are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K.

A fatty triol (fatty alcohol) with one double bond, avocadene (16-heptadecene-1,2,4-triol) is found in avocado and has been tested for anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are likely related with the curative effects of avocado described for a number of ailments (diarrhea, dysentery, abdominal pains and high blood pressure).


A phytochemical is a plant or fruit derived chemical compound. There is a growing body of evidence from epidemiological studies showing that the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can meaningfully reduce the risk of cancer, probably due to polyphenol antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

The future is ripe for identifying fruits and vegetables and individual phytonutrients with cancer preventing activity, says D’Ambrosio. As we identify the molecular mechanisms and targets by which individual phytonutrients prevent cancer, we may be able to improve upon nature by formulating phytonutrient cocktails for specific cancers and individual susceptibility and risk.

Although there are more than 500 varieties of avacados, Hass avacados make up almost all of the avacados eaten in the U.S.

The study is published online in the journal Seminars in Cancer Biology.

Photo by Roshan Vyas- Creative Commons License