Newswise — A major component of olive oil, hydroxytyrosol, is the subject of a Houston Methodist study of women who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer. The study focuses on the changes in breast density after one year of treatment and is the first of its kind in the United States.

Tejal Patel, M.D., breast medical oncologist with Houston Methodist Cancer Center, leads the clinical study of hydroxytyrosol’s effects in pre- and postmenopausal women. Recent studies have linked breast density and breast cancer risk, and the primary objective of this study is to show a significant decrease in breast density.

“We know there is a correlation between breast density and breast cancer,” Patel said. “A decrease in density of one percent can potentially translate into a nearly two percent reduced risk of developing breast cancer.”

Previous research has shown that olive oil provides many health benefits including lowering the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and possibly stroke.

“Our hope is to be able to offer women a supplement to help reduce the risk of breast cancer,” said Patel, who leads a high-risk clinic at Houston Methodist Cancer Center. “We have already proven we can prevent some breast cancer. Now we need to find ways to do it better.”

Houston Methodist will enroll 100 patients -- 50 premenopausal and 50 postmenopausal women. Each patient will take one 25 mg hydroxytyrosol capsule for 12 months and undergo checkups every three months. There is no placebo control. In addition to looking at whether hydroxytyrosol has an impact on breast density, researchers will also note possible side effects of the chemical. Hydroxytyrosol’s properties have been studied in humans and in laboratory cell cultures. Hydroxytyrosol has also been shown to be one of the most powerful antioxidants, and past studies have shown it has low toxicity in the human body, even at high doses.

Approximately 2.5 million women worldwide live with breast cancer. More than 250,000 women 40 or younger live with breast cancer in the United States. A woman can be at high risk of breast cancer if she has family history of breast cancer, has a mutation in BRCA 1 or 2 gene, or has abnormal breast biopsy.

To speak with Tejal Patel, M.D., contact Katie Wooldridge at [email protected] or 832.667.5849. For more information on Houston Methodist, call 713.790.3333 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.