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A muffin a day -- with 50 grams of ground flaxseed -- could keep breast cancer at bay, according to a new Canadian study.

The researchers found there was a "slowing down in tumour growth" in breast cancer patients fed flaxseed muffins.

"Our results are very exciting because this is the first time anyone has demonstrated these changes in breast cancer with any dietary component," said Dr. Paul Goss, director of the breast cancer prevention program at the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Toronto Hospital.

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Earlier animal studies have shown that flaxseed has anti-cancer properties, but the researchers were surprised by how potent the effect appears to be in people.

"It encourages us to believe this is a very significant biological effect in women and we are heading towards more definitive proof that dietary flaxseed may prevent breast cancer," Dr. Goss said.

He presented his research team's finding yesterday at an international breast-cancer conference in San Antonio, Texas.

The study involved 50 women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. While waiting for their surgery, the women were divided into two groups. One group received a daily muffin containing 50 grams of ground flaxseed, about two tablespoons. The others were prescribed ordinary muffins.

When their tumours were removed -- usually within 40 days of diagnosis -- the researchers examined them for signs of how fast the cancer cells had been growing.

It turned out that the women who had received the flaxseed muffins had slower-growing tumours than the others.

Dr. Goss noted that more studies are needed to determine flaxseed's true effectiveness.

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