Spirulina For Cancer: How Can This Blue-Green Algae Help?

spirulina for cancer

Article at a glance:

  • While there’s still no known cure and preventative treatments for any cancer, there’s some evidence that natural sources like spirulina may reduce the risk of developing cancer.
  • Although research is still limited, existing studies have found various benefits in supplementing with spirulina.
  • Cellular, animal, and human studies suggest spirulina’s anti-cancer activities may include anti-proliferative effects, boosting the immune system, and alleviating the side effects of cancer treatments.


Spirulina is one of the widely researched natural supplements and was found to have amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These have been attributed to spirulina’s abundant nutritional content, which further demonstrated spirulina’s potential to fight chronic diseases.

In this article, we’ll discuss how taking spirulina for cancer can help based on numerous studies. Keep reading to discover what scientific research has found about spirulina’s anti-cancer properties.


Can You Reduce Your Risk of Having Cancer?


cancel cells in action

Plenty of factors affect a person’s susceptibility to various types of cancer; nothing can guarantee that a person can not have cancer. However, reducing the risks of developing this chronic disease is possible.

Cancer research institutions recommend seven lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of getting cancer:

  • Not smoking
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Maintaining healthy diet
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Having an active lifestyle
  • Avoiding excessive sun or UV exposure
  • Getting vaccinated for viral infections like human papillomavirus (HPV)

Consuming spirulina can then become an amazing supplement when making these lifestyle changes. For instance, it can be difficult to track if you’re getting the recommended daily intake for all the essential nutrients. However, adding spirulina supplements to your routine can offer some help.


How Can Spirulina Help?


There’s a long-running discussion on whether supplementing spirulina for cancer is worth it.  The available research on the matter is still limited, but various studies have supported the cancer-fighting activity of spirulina.

The exact mechanisms contributing to spirulina’s anti-cancer properties still need to be researched. However, existing studies suggest that spirulina’s cancer benefits could be attributed to its phytonutrients and other components present in its biomass.


Nutrient-Dense Algae Superfood


Spirulina earned its superfood moniker because it’s found to be a natural source of essential vitamins and minerals. Even nutrients like vitamin B12, typically found in animal-based food sources, are available in spirulina. The blue-green alga spirulina is also rich in essential and non-essential amino acids containing high protein.

Spirulina also contains many essential fatty acids, including omega 3 and 6. The pigments and other phytonutrients present in spirulina also deserve attention. Several studies that found the promising anticancer activity of spirulina have noted that these components may be crucial to the benefits of spirulina for cancer risk reduction.


Anti-Inflammatory Benefits


Inflammation that occurs when we get injured or get sick is a good thing. It indicates that the immune system’s elements to fight infections (like white blood cells) work as they should. This kind of “good” inflammation will stop once it’s finished fighting the cause of infection. Then, the site of inflammation should naturally heal and return to normal.

Several factors can cause persistent inflammation even when there’s no infection to heal, and it doesn’t stop as it should. This is called chronic inflammation and could lead to serious damage to cells and DNA from which cancer may develop.

Proving its immense health benefits, spirulina has also demonstrated positive effects against chronic inflammation. One animal study noted that a high-fat diet could cause damage to colon tissue, which could then lead to chronic inflammation. However, the experiment results found spirulina helped inhibit inflammation and imbalance in gut microbiota.


Antioxidant Power


Remember when we said the pigments rich in spirulina deserve attention, too? They’re likely the main source of spirulina’s antioxidant properties.

While spirulina also contains the widely popular chlorophyll pigment, it contains much more phycocyanin pigment. Phycocyanin, however, plays an incredibly important role in the antioxidant activity of spirulina.

It has been found effective in scavenging free radicals and reactive oxygen species, which cause cellular and DNA damage. Spirulina’s major pigment also showed an ability to inhibit lipid peroxidation.

Analysis of laboratory-grown Spirulina platensis and Spirulina maxima also showed the species can contain potent antioxidant agents like carotenoids and tocopherols.


Boost for Immune System


It’s common knowledge that a strong immune system helps fight pathogens that cause infections and diseases. However, the immune functions of the body can also act against cancer. It’s also crucial to work on boosting the immune system, and supplementing spirulina may help.

Clinical trials with participants over 60 found spirulina supplementation may boost the immune system and counter anemia.


Is Spirulina Good for Cancer?


woman hugging a loved one with cancer


Does spirulina kill cancer cells?

Spirulina and its bioactive compounds have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. The popular superfood has long been considered for its potential in fighting cancer cells.

Several preliminary cellular studies have suggested spirulina intake may help inhibit the spread of cancer cells. First, it’s worth noting that many studies conducted to analyze spirulina’s cancer benefits are preliminary research. Many that found spirulina’s potential to kill cancer cells were also done in vitro or in vivo using animal models.

Nevertheless, these results were promising enough to warrant further studies on spirulina’s potential as an added cancer treatment approach.


Spirulina and Leukemia


Various types of spirulina extract were found to be cytotoxic for leukemia cancer cell lines. Introducing spirulina to leukemia cancer cell lines induced damage that likely inhibited their proliferation.

The study noted that spirulina water extract and 70% ethanol extract effectively affected leukemia cancer cell lines. However, the latter demonstrated the most potent cancer-fighting activity “comparable” with the effect of the well-known cancer treatment cyclophosphamide.

More studies are still needed to understand the benefits of spirulina for cancer treatment. Research suggested that such spirulina cancer benefits may have been due to phytopigments rich in this blue-green algae.

The key pigments found in spirulina include phycocyanin, chlorophyll, and carotenoids.


Spirulina and Pancreatic Cancer


A 2014 research found Spirulina platensis contains tetrapyrrolic compounds closely related to the bilirubin molecule. In its in vitro study of experimental pancreatic cancer cells, these compounds were found effective in lowering the risk of  human pancreatic cancer cell proliferation.

The research suggested that the antiproliferative effect on pancreatic cancer cells may have been achieved partially because of the antioxidant properties of spirulina. The study also included an in vivo study using a mice model, where spirulina further demonstrated its ability to inhibit pancreatic cancer growth. Researchers observed a major reduction in the subject’s tumor growth after three days of supplementing spirulina.


Spirulina for Colon Cancer


Another study found that Spirulina platensis water extract (at 1.5 g/100 ml concentration) can inhibit the proliferation of human colon cancer cell lines in vitro.

Research further suggested that the cancer-fighting potential of spirulina could be explained by the rich amount of total phenolic compounds in its water extract. This potentially explains the powerful antioxidant properties of the blue-green alga spirulina.


Spirulina and Lung Cancer


Water extract from commercially available spirulina products also exhibited excellent anticancer potential, particularly against lung cancer cell lines. A study published in 2018 found that spirulina water extract makes cancer cells less viable and even induces apoptosis or cell death. Spirulina water extract has also not caused cytotoxic effects on normal skin fibroblasts, suggesting supplementation of the blue-green algae is safe for healthy cells.


Spirulina and Melanoma


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation and unhealthy sun exposure are major causes of melanoma skin cancer. Research in mice models also found that Ogg1 gene deficiency exacerbates skin tumor formation when subjects are exposed to UVB rays.

The study, however, found that supplementation of Spirulina platensis may help suppress skin tumor development in Ogg1 knockout mice models.


What Does Spirulina Do for Cancer Patients?


Aside from spirulina’s anti-cancer properties, research also found that supplementing spirulina for cancer patients may relieve the side effects of established treatments.

In one clinical trial, 60 out of 100 patients undergoing four cycles of chemotherapy were assigned to the treatment group to analyze if dietary spirulina platensis would positively affect their immune systems. The treated group consumed spirulina capsules daily during the first and second cycles of treatments. They were administered with 3 capsules of 100 mg dietary spirulina supplements three times a day.

Patients who took spirulina supplements had higher levels of white blood cells and neutrophils after the second cycle of chemotherapy than the control group. The treatment group also had fewer cases of severe myelosuppression, and patients treated with spirulina needed less treatment modification than the control group. After completing four chemo cycles, chemo patients who took spirulina had higher levels of the Immunoglobulin M antibody and tumor-detecting CD8+ T cells.

As promising as the results from these studies are, clinical trials that assessed the effects and benefits of spirulina for cancer patients are very limited.


Can a Chemo Patient Take Spirulina?


spirulina tablets


Is spirulina safe for cancer patients? The trial of supplementing spirulina for cancer patients undergoing chemo holds great promise.

Evidence suggests there won’t be contraindications between spirulina supplements, cancer treatments, and medications remains limited. However, experts note that natural dietary supplements may reduce the efficacy of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

Despite the exciting results of studies on spirulina’s cancer benefits, it’s best to consult your doctor before cancer patients add spirulina supplements to their diet. More importantly, taking supplements — even spirulina that showed anticancer potential — should not be considered a replacement for established cancer treatments.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Take Spirulina Every Day?


Yes. Spirulina is one of the natural supplements the US Food and Drug Administration has categorized as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This indicates that spirulina supplements are generally safe for consumption, especially for healthy adults. It should also be safe to be taken as a daily dietary supplement.


How Much Spirulina Can You Take a Day?


Most commercially available spirulina tablets and spirulina powder manufacturers recommend between 3 g and 5 g daily. However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) noted that spirulina supplements are “possibly safe” to consume in higher doses: a daily dose of 19 g daily for 2 months or 10 g daily for up to 6 months.


When Should I Avoid Spirulina?


Patients going through any form of treatment (i.e., therapy, medications, etc.) should always ask their healthcare providers before taking spirulina. There’s not much research on spirulina drug interactions, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any contraindications. Due to spirulina’s immunomodulatory properties, the natural supplement may affect medications for patients with autoimmune diseases.


Enhance Your Defense Against Diseases With Spirulina


When lowering our risks of getting cancer, there is no substitute for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But life nowadays can be so demanding that keeping a balanced diet and active lifestyle is understandably easier said than done. The good news is a natural supplement like spirulina could be a major help in our journey to make lifestyle changes to reduce cancer risk.

Available research points to spirulina’s ability to fight free radical damage and chronic inflammation, both associated with chronic diseases. Spirulina is rich in nutrients, especially healthy pigments and carotenoids, which may explain why the blue-green algae has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

While blue-green spirulina is not yet classified as a definitive preventative treatment for cancer, studies have shown that it has the components to improve our defense against this disease.


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John Riedl

Simply put that’s why I’ve gone down the health journey of research and creating health brands.

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