Eat Your Veggies and Fight Cancer, Too
Anticancer shopping list: broccoli sprouts, cabbage, garlic
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 31, 2005 -- Simple foods carry the most scientifically advanced
anticancer compounds, scientists say.
The reports come from the fourth annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention
Research meeting, held by the American Association for Cancer Research.
At the cutting edge of these new frontiers is the finding that, well, that
your mother was right. You really should eat your vegetables. They're full of
newly discovered cancer-fighting compounds, says conference program chairman
William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University.
"Basic research is discovering more and more about the cancer-preventing
properties of things we are eating," Nelson said at a news conference.
"The idea of having more fruits and vegetables in the diet has more and
more evidence to support it."
This year a Nobel Prize went to the scientists who in 1982 discovered H.
pylori, the bacterium that causes most stomach ulcers. But stomach ulcers
aren't all this nasty bug does to us.
H. pylori causes a condition called gastritis, in which the walls
of the stomach become red and swollen. Gastritis enormously increases a
person's risk of stomach cancer.
A compound called sulforaphane protects cells from injury. It also happens
to kill H. pylori. As it turns out, there is a natural source bursting
with sulforaphane: broccoli sprouts. Yes, the compound can be found in small
amounts in regular, mature broccoli. But broccoli sprouts are by far the best
source, says Akinori Yanaka, MD, PhD, of the University of Tsukuba, Japan.
Broccoli Sprouts: Eat Them
Yanaka's team first fed the sprouts to H. pylori-infected mice. As
long as the mice kept eating the sprouts, they kept the ulcer bug at bay.
Then they studied 50 people with H. pylori infection. Half ate
about 3.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts every day for two months. The other half
ate alfalfa sprouts, which have almost exactly the same nutrients but totally
"Only the broccoli-sprout group had significantly decreased H.
pylori activity," Yanaka said at the news conference. "Only those
who ate broccoli sprouts showed decreased gastritis. We concluded that eating
broccoli sprouts offers a rich source of sulforaphane, which may be useful as a
chemoprotection against gastric cancer."
The broccoli sprouts did not cure H. pylori infection, however. The bug
roared back two months after patients stopped eating the sprouts.
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,
Dinkova-Kostova and colleagues found that an extract made from broccoli
sprouts protects the skin of hairless mice exposed to cancer-causing
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.