(NaturalNews) An extract made from broccoli sprouts boosts the body's natural ability to defend against the ultraviolet solar rays that cause skin cancer, reveals a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If a product could be developed from the extract, it could even provide key advantages over typical sunscreens lotions, which contain numerous carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals.
"If you apply an extract of broccoli sprouts that contains high levels of sulforaphane to regions of human skin, you can protect them very substantially," said study co-leader Paul Talalay. "We believe, to the best of our knowledge, that this is the first demonstration of protection against a known human carcinogen in humans."
In 1992, Talalay and colleagues at Johns Hopkins first discovered that broccoli is rich in a naturally occurring plant compound called sulforaphane. While all cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, mustard, turnip, radish and watercress) contain sulforaphane to a certain degree, the concentration is highest in three-day-old sprouts of the broccoli plant. Broccoli is also known to be high in nutrients, including A, B and C vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber and folic acid, and is widely accepted to have cancer-fighting benefits when consumed as part of the diet.
Sulforaphane has the effect of activating cells' production of what are known as "phase 2 enzymes." One such enzyme, glutathione S-transferase, has been shown to neutralize the DNA-damaging compounds produced by the skin produces when struck by ultraviolet radiation. It also appears to reduce inflammation, which can cause precancerous growths to transform into full-blown cancerous tumors. Sulforaphane also encourages the production of tumor-suppressing proteins.
Research reveals anti-cancer properties of broccoli sprouts
Talalay's initial research led his son to become chief executive officer of Brassica Protection Products LLC (www.brassica.com), which produces a brand-name broccoli sprout health food called "BroccoSprouts."
In more recent studies, Talalay and colleagues applied broccoli-sprout extract to the skin of hairless mice and then exposed those mice to ultraviolet radiation. Mice treated with the extract developed significantly fewer skin cancer tumors than hairless mice that had not been treated. Among treated mice, even the tumors they did develop were smaller than those developed by untreated mice.
Most recently, the researchers exposed six healthy human volunteers to ultraviolet radiation in two locations on their backs. One location had been smeared with broccoli-sprout extract one to three days previously.
The areas treated with broccoli-sprout extract developed an average of 37 percent less redness and inflammation than the areas that had not been so treated. The reaction to the extract varied widely by individual, however, from a low of 8 percent less redness and inflammation to a high of 78 percent. (Both redness and inflammation are signs of skin damage, a precursor to skin cancer.)
How sulforaphane prevents skin cancer
The researchers believe that the broccoli-sprout extract provides a long-lasting effect because once the body's cancer-fighting mechanisms are activated by sulforaphane, they remain active for days.
"It's very important work," said Michael Sporn, a professor of pharmacology at Dartmouth Medical School and former head of the National Cancer Institute's program on cancer prevention by means of natural products. Activating the body's inherent defensive mechanisms, he said, "is a new and promising approach."
Unlike sunscreen, the broccoli-sprout extract does not actually block sunlight from striking the skin. This means that it does not interfere with the body's ability to synthesize vitamin D, a critical nutrient whose production is caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. The vast majority of Americans, Canadians and British citizens are deficient in vitamin D, leading to greatly increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, depression, and bone disorders like osteoporosis.
Talalay and colleagues hope to eventually develop a commercial product based on broccoli-sprout extract that could be applied to skin as a protection against skin cancer. Obstacles include figuring out the right concentration of sulforaphane, increasing the shelf life of the active ingredient and figuring out how to get the chemical to absorb into the skin effectively.
In the animal and human trials, researchers dissolved the extract in acetone, a major ingredient of nail polish remover. But animal studies have implicated acetone in kidney, liver and nerve damage, as well as reproductive and birth defects, so the researchers are searching for an alternative to make the product safer for long-term use. They're also looking for a way to remove the green tint from the extract without having to resort to synthesizing sulforaphane in the laboratory.
"The advantage of starting with sprouts is that we all eat broccoli so we're not concerned with toxicity issues," said study co-leader Albena Dinkova-Kostova, now working at the University of Dundee, Scotland. In contrast, an artificially synthesized compound would have to go through a stricter regulatory process.
The toxicity of sunscreen chemicals
As NaturalNews reported recently, a CDC study shows that 97 percent of Americans are contaminated with a toxic sunscreen chemical called oxybenzone (http://www.naturalnews.com/022990.html). This chemical is found in nearly 600 sunscreen products, including children's formulas.
Sunscreens also contain cancer-causing fragrance chemicals and numerous petrochemical-derived synthetic substances that actually promote cancer. That's why informed consumers are increasingly avoiding artificial sunscreen products and, instead, using natural substances to prevent sunburn by boosting antioxidant intake. Consuming Astaxanthin, for example, boosts the body's innate resistance to UV damage. Eating berries and microalgae superfoods (like spirulina and blue-green algae) also boosts antioxidants in the skin, increasing natural resistance to UV damage.
The truth is, sunscreen products are outdated and dangerous. They actually cause the very condition (skin cancer) they claim to prevent, and the dermatology industry only promotes sunscreen products because it is heavily funded by sunscreen manufacturers. Even worse, the use of sunscreen causes chronic vitamin D deficiency, leaving consumers susceptible to depression, prostate cancer, breast cancer, osteoporosis and all the other degenerative health conditions caused by a lack of vitamin D.
Perhaps soon, we'll have a new sunscreen lotion based on broccoli sprouts instead of toxic oxybenzone. Watch NaturalNews.com for updates on this important discovery.
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