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D.iet & H.ealth : C.ancer Last Updated: Nov 12th, 2006 - 20:38:00

Cruciferous vegetables contain cancer-killing compounds
By Kathy Jones
Oct 21, 2006, 00:22

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Oct 19 ( - Natural compounds found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli have the ability to induce deaths of cancer cells, according to a new study by scientists from the University of Leicester. Broccoli is a recognized anti-cancer food due to the presence of compounds called glucosinolates.

The human body has the ability to metabolize these plant chemicals into anti-carcinogens or cancer fighting compounds. The new study says that a phytochemical in cruciferous vegetables, called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), may be able to prevent cancers of the breast, prostate and ovaries.

I3C may be able to induce physiological death in breast cancer cells, the researchers said. They conducted an in vitro study to test the effects of I3C on cancer cells and found that the compound renders these cells more susceptible to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy.

"It is notoriously hard to conduct large-scale studies looking at the cancer preventing effects of these substances in our food, but the in vitro evidence is growing that these agents would make an ideal addition to preventive and combinatorial anti-cancer strategies," said the study's lead researcher, Professor Margaret Manson.

The in vitro study examined the effect of I3C on four types of cancer cells. Of the four, three were killed off by the compound. "Dietary agents are kind to normal cells at doses which can slow down or kill cancer cells. Combining them with drugs may enhance the drugs' effectiveness and could allow reduced doses to be given to patients," Manson said.

However, researchers agreed that the level of I3C present in broccoli or cabbage may be too low to have an effect against cancer cells and that extracts may be needed to achieve full benefits.

Josephine Querido, science information officer at Cancer Research UK said the study proved that I3C had the ability to combat cancer albeit in a laboratory setting, "After stopping smoking, a healthy balanced diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risk of developing certain cancers," she said.

The present study is published on-line ahead of print in the journal Carcinogenesis.

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