Studies conducted in women and in the laboratory strongly suggest that the herbal supplement Ginkgo biloba may help lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in women and the second most commonly diagnosed gynecologic cancer.
Herbal supplements such as Ginkgo have generated interest for their potential preventive effects, but there is a “lack of scientific evidence” to support their use for this purpose, Dr. Bin Ye from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told a gathering of reporters at a cancer prevention conference held in Baltimore this month.
In a population-based study involving more than 600 women with ovarian cancer and 640 healthy control women, Ye and colleagues found that the most commonly used herbals were ginkgo, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, and chondroitin.
But only ginkgo appeared to ward off ovarian cancer. According to the data, women who took ginkgo supplements had a 60 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer.
Specifically, according to Ye, “4.2 percent of ovarian cancer-free women reported taking ginkgo regularly for at least six months before diagnosis, but only 1.6 percent of women with ovarian cancer reported taking ginkgo. This suggests that women who are using ginkgo may be less likely to develop ovarian cancer.”
Studies conducted in the laboratory provide evidence that ginkgolide A and B -- key components of ginkgo biloba -- are largely responsible for this protective effect.
In the laboratory study, Ye and colleagues treated ovarian cancer cells with a low dose of ginkgolide for 72 hours. This led to up to an 80 percent reduction in the growth of the ovarian cancer cells.
“To conclude, Ginkgo biloba may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer in the general population,” Ye said.