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Do Onions and Garlic Cut the Risk of Breast Cancer?

Epidemiologists find that Puerto Rican women who eat lots of onions and garlic have a lower chance of breast cancer.
Do Onions and Garlic Cut the Risk of Breast Cancer?
Tomato, onion, green bell pepper and garlic isolated on white background. Sofrito sauce ingredients. Package design element with clipping path

Scientists suggest that the Puerto Rican culinary tradition of incorporating sofrito into many dishes might help explain a lower rate of breast cancer on the island (Nutrition and Cancer, Aug. 12, 2019). Puerto Rican cooks make this popular condiment with onions and garlic, two kinds of peppers, cilantro and a related herb, recao. 

The Importance of Onions and Garlic:

Puerto Rican women who ate lots of garlic and onions were 67 percent less likely to get breast cancer. Although sofrito is an important source of allium vegetables, total intake was important, not only the use of sofrito. Epidemiologists reached their conclusion by comparing diets of Puerto Rican women with and without breast cancer.

Why Might These Vegetables Help Against Breast Cancer?

The researchers point out that onions and garlic are rich in flavonols and sulfur-containing compounds that have anti-cancer activity. Other studies have found that certain sulfur compounds arrest cancer cell growth (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, July 28, 2017). Scientists around the world are studying allium vegetables for cancer prevention (Phytotherapy Research, Aug. 29, 2019).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Desai G et al, "Onion and garlic intake and breast cancer, a case-control study in Puerto Rico." Nutrition and Cancer, Aug. 12, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635581.2019.1651349
  • Puccinelli MT & Stan SD, "Dietary bioactive diallyl trisulfide in cancer prevention and treatment." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, July 28, 2017. DOI: 10.3390/ijms18081645
  • Asemani Y et al, "Allium vegetables for possible future of cancer treatment." Phytotherapy Research, Aug. 29, 2019. DOI: 10.1002/ptr.6490
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