Ginkgo biloba poses cancer risk, CSPI says

A consumer science watchdog group is cautioning people against using the popular supplement ginkgo biloba, citing a study that the commonly-used herb may constitute a cancer risk.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest cites a National Institutes of Health study which revealed evidence of increased rates of liver cancer in rats and thyroid cancer in rats who were given the supplement. That led to the CSPI downgrading its rating of ginkgo from "safe" to "avoid."

Ginkgo biloba has long been turned to as a supplement that has been said to improve memory, treat dementia and improve circulation in the legs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The CSPI, though, says those claims are "dubious."

"The pretend benefits are now outweighed by the real risk of harm," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobsen said in a statement.

Maryland medical officials say, though, that a 2008 study of 3,000 elderly people concluded that gingko biloba worked no better than a placebo.

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