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Biology Senior Capstone

The Role Of Hops (Humulus Lupulus) In Human Breast Cancer

Hops, the perennial herbaceous vine Humulus lupulus, whose flowers add flavor and aroma to beer and ale, are also known for their sedative and anti-bacterial effects. Less clear is the plant’s role in cancer, with some studies showing an anti-cancer effect and others that show an increase in cancer cells.

Heather Ritenour focused her senior project on the phytoestrogens found in hops, compounds chemically similar to human estrogen, in particular 8-prenylnarigenin, a phytoestrogen ten times stronger than those found in soybeans. Ritenour, who has had a long-time interest in natural therapies and remedies, was inspired to do her project after conducting summer research with Biology Professor Paige Baugher, a phytoestrogen expert.

Ritenour found that high concentrations of 8-prenylnarigenin decreased cancer cells, while in lower concentrations it appeared to influence an increase. So should we drink more beer? Probably not, she said, as alcohol is implicated in many cancers. Ritenour is now studying at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland.