Men's health * 50+ health * Healthy living

Nutrient in broccoli can fight cancer cells

Nutrient in broccoli can fight cancer cells Effective against prostate, breast and other cancers

Sulforaphane, a nutrient that naturally occurs in broccoli and other similar vegetables, can selectively target and kill cancer cells in the prostate without affecting healthy cells.

These results are encouraging as sulforaphane is already being tested as a possible treatment for breast and prostate cancer.

Broccoli is a member of the brassica group of vegetables, which also includes cauliflowers, cabbage, radish and others. These are naturally high in various nutrients that have been linked to health benefits, including sulforaphane.

Scientists at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found that sulforaphane acts to prevent the effects of chemicals (such as HDAC) which interfere with the normal workings of cells, causing cancers.

Crucially, the sulforaphane does not affect healthy cells, making it a good candidate as a drug to treat cancers.

Study leader Emily Ho said: "It’s important to demonstrate that sulforaphane is safe if we propose to use it in cancer prevention or therapies."

Even though it is found in nature, that does not automatically mean that it is safe. "Just because a phytochemical or nutrient is found in food doesn't always mean its safe, and a lot can also depend on the form or levels consumed" added Ho.

"But this does appear to be a phytochemical that can selectively kill cancer cells, and that’s always what you look for in cancer therapies."

These results, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, build on previous experiments in mice which found that prostate tumour growth was slowed by a diet containing sulforaphane.

This article was published on Fri 10 June 2011

Image © Irina Yun -

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