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Eat Your Veggies and Fight Cancer, Too

Anticancer Shopping List: Broccoli Sprouts, Cabbage, Garlic
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Broccoli Sprouts: Rub Them on Your Skin

Broccoli sprouts aren't just good for your insides. They're good for your outside, too, reports Johns Hopkins researcher Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova, PhD.

Dinkova-Kostova and colleagues found that an extract made from broccoli sprouts protects the skin of hairless mice exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet light.

The skin rub isn't a sunscreen. Treated mice got just as much UV light as untreated mice. But while all the untreated mice got cancer from the simulated sun exposure, half the mice rubbed with broccoli-sprout extract remained cancer free. Those that did get cancer had half as many tumors as untreated mice.

"Broccoli-sprout extract could possibly be used as a preventive treatment for skin cancer after exposure to UV light," Dinkova-Kostova said at the news conference.

Cabbage: Eat It Raw

Polish women are more likely to get breast cancer if they emigrate to the U.S. Why, wondered Dorothy Rybaczyk-Pathak, PhD, of the University of New Mexico. She guessed it must have something to do with changing dietary habits.

A likely suspect: cabbage. Polish women traditionally consume 30 pounds of cabbage a year -- much of it in the form of raw sauerkraut, in salads, or in short-cooked side dishes. When they emigrate to America, they eat only 10 pounds of cabbage a year.

Cabbage -- like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and cauliflower -- is a cruciferous vegetable. When broken down by chewing, cabbage releases several biologically active products including compounds called glucosinolates and an enzyme called myrosinase. These products have anticancer properties.

For the greatest benefit, timing seems to be crucial. Rybaczyk-Pathak found that women who as teenagers ate the most raw cabbage were least likely to get breast cancer. But even women who didn't eat much cabbage as teens had a lower breast cancer risk if they ate a lot of raw cabbage as adults.

How much cabbage need a woman eat? Three or more servings a week of raw or short-cooked cabbage puts a woman in the lowest risk category.

Unfortunately, traditional long-cooked Polish dishes such as hunter's stew, pierogi, and cabbage rolls did not lower cancer risk.

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