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Mushrooms and Cancer Research

Mushrooms are being used in cancer research, and the results have been extremely promising for cancer patients. A 2021 MD Anderson article highlighted Santhosshi Narayanan, M.D., a physician in MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center. Narayanan conducted a review of over 2,000 studies that focused on mushrooms and cancer in the last10 years and shared their findings.


“These mushrooms have been around for hundreds of years," said Narayanan, “They're often used in Asian countries, not only in cancer care, but also to treat infections and other diseases...one study showed that when people took mushrooms, they were able to tolerate more rounds chemotherapy treatment, probably because they have fewer side effects, and thereby it might have indirectly improved their survival."


There are many types of medicinal mushrooms being used in cancer studies, and some of them can even be found in grocery stores like Sprout's, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, and others. The most common medicinal mushrooms are:

  • mitake

  • reishi

  • turkey tail

  • shiitake



Below are just a few ways mushrooms are being studied when it comes to cancer:


  • Immunomodulatory Properties: Certain mushroom species, such as the turkey tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor), contain bioactive compounds like polysaccharides that have demonstrated immunomodulatory effects. These compounds may help stimulate the immune system and potentially aid in cancer prevention and treatment.


  • Anticancer Properties: Some mushrooms, like the shiitake mushroom, contain compounds like lentinan and beta-glucans that have shown promise in laboratory studies for their potential anti-cancer properties. Research is ongoing to explore how these compounds can be used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments.


  • Supportive Care: Mushrooms like reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) are used in traditional medicine systems for their potential to alleviate cancer-related symptoms and improve overall well-being in cancer patients. Scientific studies are being conducted to better understand the mechanisms behind these effects.


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