Can Soursop Help Fight Cancer?

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Soursop is native to Central and South America. Also know as graviola fruit, it has attracted strong interest in recent years due to its potential medicinal benefits. While some studies have shown soursop may have anticancer benefits for prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers, evidence for these benefits is not yet conclusive.

Although there are many options for alternative treatments for different illnesses—including cancer—it is always imperative to follow the advice of a healthcare professional. 

Soursop
Lorenzo Vecchia / Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

What Is Soursop?

Soursop is a fruit that is green with a prickly outer texture and a soft and creamy internal texture. The taste is commonly compared to a strawberry or pineapple.

The fruit is mainly found in the rainforest of Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa. The scientific name is Annona muricata. Other names include custard apple, cherimoya, guanabana, and Brazilian pawpaw. In America, the fruit is most widely known as soursop.

The fruit can be consumed as a fresh fruit, supplement, and tea. It can also be consumed as an ingredient in jelly, ice cream, and juice.

Soursop has many nutritional benefits, such as protein, fiber, potassium, vitamin C, iron, folate, riboflavin, niacin, high antioxidant properties, and more. Other soursop benefits are purported to be treating fevers, as well as managing diabetes, hypertension, insomnia, and inflammatory conditions. In the Caribbean, soursop is a popular herbal remedy used for patients who have prostate, colorectal, or breast cancer. Overall, however, more studies need to be conducted to determine if soursop is an effective and safe option to help fight cancer.

How to Eat Soursop

Soursop is typically eaten raw by cutting the fruit in half and scooping out the flesh. You can also incorporate soursop into syrups, smoothies, and desserts such as ice creams, candies, and sweet beverages. The leaves can also be used to make a tea.

Cancer-Fighting Properties

Soursop contains more than 200 phytochemicals, which are compounds that are known to have anticancer effects. Research also shows that soursop has natural cytotoxicity effects. For cancer patients, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are cytotoxic therapies (meaning they kill cancer cells). Studies show that the fruit also has an ability to reduce the cell growth on a number of cancer cell lines. This includes breast, lung, pancreatic, prostate, ovarian, and colorectal cancers.

While this may seem promising, it is important to remember that there is not enough human data to support these claims. Experts from Cancer Treatment Centers of America warn against using soursop as a cancer fighter, and they note that soursop is associated with numerous unsubstantiated claims. Drugs developed from compounds in the soursop plant are likely to be more effective than simply consuming the fruit or tea made from its leaves.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is known as the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women.

In a study in mice, researchers found that the leaves from soursop showed an anticancer effect on breast cancer cell lines. Studies have also shown that extracts from soursop can aid in destroying cells that are resistant to specific chemotherapy drugs. Although these were promising results, researchers concluded that more studies should be conducted. 

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men. A recent study showed that soursop has an anticancer effect on prostate cancer cells in mice. Further studies need to be conducted to show whether or not it is effective in humans.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The leaf extract of soursop has showed anticancer properties against a cell line, restricting of migration, and cytotoxicity against certain cells. Again, more research is needed to validate these claims.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Studies show that pancreatic tumors are resistant to conventional chemotherapies and radiotherapies. Many diagnoses are already in the advanced stages because the disease often presents with no specific early clinical symptoms.

Statistics predict a possible 55% increase in new pancreatic cancer cases by 2030. Studies reported soursop extract has promising characteristics for pancreatic cancer therapeutics due to its anti-tumorigenic characteristics, which show that soursop extract resulted in pancreatic cancer cell death and necrosis.

Overall, although soursop has agents that can help protect against certain cancer cells, more research needs to be conducted to get a clearer answer regarding whether it can work as a cancer treatment on its own in humans. Alternative medicine should always be considered as a supplement and not a replacement for standard therapies.

Other Benefits

Soursop has many properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial agents that may help treat certain ailments. In many countries, it is used as a traditional remedy, where the fruit is used for ailments such as lice, fever, edema, coughs, blood cleansing, arthritis, depression, parasites, asthma, and inflammation.

Risks

Although soursop is considered a natural remedy for many conditions, there are some risks. Taking soursop long-term could lead to toxicity in the liver and kidneys. Soursop is also known to lower blood pressure as well as blood sugar, so it should not be taken by people on blood pressure medications or who have diabetes.

Do Not Consume Soursop If:

You are taking any blood pressure medication, are pregnant and/or breastfeeding, or have kidney or liver problems or diabetes.

A Word From Verywell

Soursop is a fruit that may have many health benefits. There are a variety of ways the plant can be consumed, whether it is eaten fresh or consumed as a tea or in supplement form. However, if you are considering using soursop or any other supplement, contact your medical professional so they can advise you about whether it is safe for you and your specific circumstances.

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