How Mushrooms Protect Against Prostate Cancer

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Various research studies have shown that extracts of Asian mushrooms as well as common mushrooms fight against prostate cancer. These special fungi, including cordyceps, maitake, oyster, reishi, coriolus versicolor, shiitake, and white button, contain components that are valued for their anticancer abilities.

One of those components is ergosterol peroxide, which research indicates has an impact on human prostate cancer cells by triggering cell suicide (apoptosis) and inhibiting cell growth. Extracts from reishi mushrooms demonstrated both antitumor and immune-stimulating properties in one study, while other research shows that shiitake and cordyceps mushrooms contain anticancer and immune-boosting compounds as well.

For example, the Asian mushroom shiitake, which has been demonstrating its abilities for more than 6,000 years, contains lentinan, a type of beta-glucan, which has anticancer properties.

In a 2009 study, experts showed that shiitake mushrooms suppressed tumor spread in mice implanted with human colon and breast cancer cells. In an earlier study, lentinan inhibited development of human colon cancer in mice. Thus far, no studies have looked specifically at the impact of shiitake mushrooms on prostate cancer.

Asian mushrooms also contain the antioxidant L-ergothioneine, which appears to protect cells from substances that could damage them and result in cancer. Studies show that ergothioneine is present in very high concentrations in shiitake, oyster, king oyster, reishi, and maitake mushrooms. Ergothioneine’s forte is exerting its potent antioxidant properties to protect the cells throughout the body, including the prostate. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine research recently found that ergothioneine provided protection to cells from damage associated with toxins and other substances.

Common white button mushrooms also have demonstrated an ability to help men with prostate cancer. Thirty-six men with recurrent prostate cancer and continuously rising PSA levels were given either 8 or 12 grams daily of white button mushroom powder in a phase I study. After 3 months of therapy, more than one third (36%) of men showed some decline in PSA below baseline, and two of them experienced declines below detectable levels that continued for 49 and 30 months.

To make mushrooms a part of your diet, look for the Asian varieties, which are best when cooked, and add them to stir-fry, soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Prepare them along with your lightly steamed vegetables and add them to cooked whole grains to get their prostate-protecting benefits.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Kim SP et al. Mechanism of Hericum erinaceus (Yamibushitake) mushroom-induced apoptosis of U937 human monocytic leukemia cells. Food Funct 2011 Jun; 2(6): 348-56

Russo A et al. Pro-apoptotic activity of ergosterol peroxide and (22E)-ergosta-7 22-dien-5alpha-hydroxy-3,6-dione in human prostate cancer cells. Chem Bio Interact 2010 Mar 30; 184(3): 352-58

Twardowski P et al. A phase I trial of mushroom powder in patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer: roles of cytokines and myeloid-derived suppressor cells for Agaricus bisporus-induced prostate-specific antigen responses. Cancer 2015 Sep 1; 121(17):2942-50

Yamaguchi Y et al. Efficacy and safety of orally administered Lentinula edodes mycelia extract for patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy: a pilot study. Am J Chin Med 2011; 39(3): 451-59

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