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Anticancer Res. 2005 May-Jun;25(3A):1817-22.

Flax-seed extracts with phytoestrogenic effects on a hormone receptor-positive tumour cell line.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Rostock, Germany.


The higher soy intake in the Asian population compared to Europeans is believed to be an essential factor for the lower incidence of hormone-dependent tumours in Asia. It has already been shown that soya beans, with their ingredients genistein and daidzein from the isoflavonoid group, have protective effects on hormone-caused diseases. Lignans are another, less investigated, group of phytoestrogens. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of flax-seed, which is typically found in Northern European diets, on the proliferation and hormone production of an estrogen receptor (ER)-positive trophoblast tumour cell line.


Trophoblast tumour cells of the cell line Jeg3 were incubated with 2 different concentrations of the isolated crude extract of flax-seed and 7 chemically partitioned extract fractions. Untreated cells were used as controls. After 48 h of stimulation, cell proliferation was measured using the BrdU method. The concentrations of hCG and progesterone produced by the trophoblast tumour cells were measured 48 h after stimulation. Extract fractions with antiproliferative effects in the BrdU- test were analysed by HPLC-MS.


Our study showed an inhibitory influence of some of the isolated flax-seed fractions on the Jeg3 tumour cells. Proliferation of the Jeg3 cells was decreased by flax-seed fractions I, V, VI and VII in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibition of hCG production by flax-seed extracts III, V, VI and VII was also dose-dependent. Extract fractions V and VI decreased the production of progesterone by 58% to 86%. Some extract fractions showed a stimulating effect on hormone production and cell proliferation. HPLC-MS analysis showed the presence of matairesinol and biochanin A in flax-seed fraction VI.


Flax-seed seems to have similar inhibitory effects to soya on hormone production and proliferation of hormone-sensitive tumour cells. Our results showed a dose-dependent inhibition by isolated flax-seed extracts on the Jeg3 cell line. Matairesinol and biochanin A seem to be useful candidates for extended tests on other tumour cell lines and normal tissues to evaluate the potential benefit of a lignan-containing therapy in hormone-dependent diseases.

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