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Dear Pharmacist,

My sister has breast cancer and is taking tamoxifen. She would like to take flax seed supplements (or eat the ground up seeds/oil) but she doesn’t know if it will help or interfere with her treatment. Her doctor said it was fine, but wanted her to double check with you, since they both read you in the local paper in Florida. Thanks for your help.

--T.R. Albany, New York

Answer: Lots of women have asked me if flax seed is safe to take if they have a history of breast cancer because they are a form of estrogen. First off, you should know that flax seed is a natural plant-based estrogen that is considered beneficial to the breast and prostate. It helps process estrogen to safer by products in the body.

Regarding your sister, the final approval to use flax must come from her physician, but since he has asked me to weigh in, I say yes. Flax protects the breasts, and studies today show that it enhances the activity of tamoxifen.

Flax seed is full of nutrients your body needs to be healthy, such as omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans, and fiber. It reduces the risk of various types of cancer, as well as lung and heart disease. One 2007 study even showed that menopausal women noticed fewer hot flashes after adding the seed to their diet!

How exactly does the magic happen? It’s due to lignans, which are complex carbohydrates found in plants. When digested, they offer us natural plant-based estrogens (termed phytoestrogens) and antioxidant power, so they have the ability to replace dangerous estrogens,with safer ones as well as sweep away toxins. Lignans are well known to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer. Flax seed contains hundreds of times more lignans than most other plant-based foods, making these tiny seeds a gigantic resource for your health. We know that seeds create life on Earth, and they can do the same inside your body.

A recent eight week trial, published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Resource journal, just got to the nitty gritty of it all. Researchers were trying to flesh out which part of the flax seed it is that makes tamoxifen so effective and as it turns out, it’s the oils within that help the most.

Another recent study in May 2010 of Nutrition and Cancer just found that key compounds in the naturally occurring oils of flax seed (such as secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) could slow the growth of established breast tumors. By the way guys, that same compound is known to prevent balding.

That’s not the first study to prove the power of flax seed in protecting the breasts though. In 2005, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that flax seed halted growth of developing breast cancer cells, and therefore slowed the spreading (metastasis) of it.

Did You Know?

Protein supplements help you lose weight by boosting metabolism and preserving muscle mass.

Suzy Cohen

Suzy Cohen, is known as America’s Pharmacist. She has been a licensed pharmacist for 24 years and is a Functional Medicine practitioner. She’s the author of 6 books, including her most recent Amazon #1 best-seller, “Thyroid Healthy: Lose Weight, Look Beautiful and Live the Life You Imagine.”

She was the host of The Thyroid Summit which broadcast worldwide in June 2014. Suzy has been a syndicated columnist for 19 years reaching 20 million in circulation each week. She is a Huffington Post writer, and also hosts her own syndicated medical minute on TV. Suzy has been featured on The Dr OZ Show 6 times, and has appeared on The View, Good Morning America Health, The Doctors and hundreds of other networks. She is a member of The Institute of Functional Medicine, also the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, The American Pharmacists Association and ILADS, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. You can read free articles and receive your free newsletter by visiting her website,

Books authored by Suzy Cohen include:

  • Thyroid Healthy
  • Headache Free
  • Drug Muggers
  • Diabetes Without Drugs
  • The 24-Hour Pharmacist
  • Eczema: Itchin’ for a Cure (kindle only)
  • Understanding Pancreatitis & Pancreatic Cancer (kindle only)