Red Clover Kills Prostate Cancer Cells

By Michael A. Smith, MD

More than 238,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States, and nearly 30,000 will die from it.1

In fact, about one in six men will be diagnosed with this condition during their lifetime.

And these epidemic statistics don’t even include the disabilities and deaths that occur in response to prostate cancer treatment.

So it’s always nice to see research results that point to a potential cancer killer like red clover. Let’s take a look at the study.

Red Clover’s Anti-Cancer Effects

Red clover contains a weak phytoestrogen called formononetin. Now before going any further, I know that some of you object to using a phytoestrogen for prostate cancer.

Please keep in mind that clinical studies have shown that some phytoestrogens have anti-cancer properties.2,3 And the present study we’re talking about today supports the same conclusion.

In the study, researchers investigated the anti-cancer mechanisms involved in the effect of formononetin on prostate cancer cells. Their results suggest that higher concentrations of formononetin inhibited the proliferation of prostate cancer cells, by inactivating the enzymes responsible for cell growth, called signal-regulated kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase.4

This inhibition of cell growth enzymes resulted in apoptosis (programed cell death) in prostate cancer cells. They concluded that red clover’s formononetin induces prostate cancer cell death — at least in petri dishes.4

Considering that red clover plants were widely used clinically, the researchers also believed that their results provide a foundation for future development of different concentrations of red clover standardized to formononetin for treatment of prostate cancer.4

Other Phytoestrogens that Fight Against Prostate Cancer

Plant-derived compounds called isoflavones,which are abundant in soybeans, modulate estrogen signaling in the human body via interaction with estrogen receptors. Thus, these compounds are sometimes classified as “phytoestrogens”.

Isoflavones have been investigated for their anti-cancer effects, but their ability to affect hormone-responsive tissues appears to influence the prostate. Evidence suggests that isoflavones decrease free serum testosterone levels and may inhibit testosterone-mediated prostate cell growth.5

These compounds were also shown to block the activity of 5α-reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which promotes prostate growth.6

Supplementation with soy isoflavones has been found to reduce PSA levels in men with prostate cancer7, and a soy-based dietary supplement containing isoflavones, lycopene, silymarin, and antioxidants was shown to significantly delay PSA progression in patients who underwent curative treatment for prostate cancer8.

In addition to preventing prostate cell proliferation, isoflavones may increase programmed cell death (i.e., apoptosis) in low-to-moderate grade tumors from prostate cancer patients.

Of Course, Prevention is Always Better

No single cause of prostate cancer has ever been determined, but the single biggest risk factor for prostate cancer is eating products that contain animal fat. In an old well-designed study involving over 6,000 men, those who routinely ate milk, cheese, eggs and meat had a 3.6 times greater risk of fatal prostate cancer than those who did not.9

A more recent case-control study published on the National Cancer Institute’s website shows a higher risk of prostate cancer with increased intake of total calories, red meat, and animal fat and protein. Yet a higher consumption of allium vegetables, peppers, and mushrooms are associated with reduced risk.10

And lastly, a study designed to examine fat intake in relation to lethal prostate cancer and all-cause mortality was published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The results showed that among men with non-metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that is contained within the prostate gland), replacing carbohydrates and animal fat with vegetable fat reduces the risk of all-cause mortality.

The authors concluded that the potential benefit of vegetable fat for prostate cancer-specific outcomes merits further research.11

So what does this mean? Pretty simple. Eat less animal fat and more vegetables! Something all of us inherently know we should be doing.


  1. Available at:
  2. Anticancer Res. 2013 Jan;33(1):39-44.
  3. Maturitas. 2013 Jun;75(2):125-30. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2013.03.006. Epub 2013 Apr 6.
  4. Horm Metab Res. 2012 Apr;44(4):263-7.
  5. Prostate. 2004 May 1;59(2):141-7.
  6. J Endocrinol. 1995 Nov;147(2):295-302.
  7. J AOAC Int. 2006 Jul-Aug;89(4):1121-34.
  8. Eur Urol. 2005 Dec;48(6):922-30.
  9. Am J Epidemiol. 1984 Aug;120(2):244-50.
  10. National Cancer Institute. Accessed 6/28/2013.
  11. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jun;10:1-8.


Anonymous said...

If I’m not mistaken you released an article a few years ago, that was written by a Harvard MD that said it’s the testosterone that was preventing prostate cancer in older men that didn’t already have prostate cancer. As men get older, their estrogen goes up which might be the reason for an increase in this cancer in older men. The testosterone keeps men at a younger level and younger men usually don’t get prostate cancer. Now you are recommending phytoestrogens and soy isoflavones which would raise the estrogen in older men. Am I not remembering correctly?

LifeExtension said...

Anonymous - It's important to differentiate between the types of estrogens found in a man's body. There is estradiol, a potent form of estrogen which has been shown to damage the DNA of prostate cell genes. Phytoestrogens, on the other hand, are weak and bind to estrogen beta receptors, an effect which protects against the proliferation of prostate cancer cells. Red clover is a phytoestrogen.

Stephen Knows Cancer said...

Thank you for sharing this information. With this and the recent news about eating raw garlic, it really does seem like cancer research has been providing clues to more feasible methods of prevention. I'll admit that I still love my steak, but veggies are definitely gonna be playing a bigger role in my meals!

LifeExtension said...

Stephen Knows Cancer - Our pleasure!

Anonymous said...

Is the idea of using red clover for men with prostate issues still sound? Do you think it would help with urine retention? My husband recently saw a urologist and his PSA seems fine, but his bladder is holding more urine than he should. An ultrasound was done and the doctor did not see anything unusual other than his bladder not emptying all the way. He takes a supplement with saw palmetto, lycopene, beta-sitosterol, stinging nettle, pumpkin seed oil, selenium, zinc, etc in it, but lacks red clover. Do you think red clover would assist, in time, with this issue? I read that it could. I would love to know your thoughts. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Men frequently have prostatitis for quite a long time without experiencing symptoms or without realizing the signs are associated with prostatitis. Prostatitis is inflammation of the prostate gland. Find what is prostatitis treatment

Unknown said...

Prostatitis is the inflammation (swelling) of the prostate gland. It can be very painful and distressing, but will often get better eventually. The best option is to take prostatitis treatment.

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