(NaturalNews) A chemical naturally occurring in broccoli may actually block the development of tumors in people with a certain genetic trait, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Institute of Food at Norwich in the United Kingdom.
Scientists have long known that a diet high in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contributes to a lower risk of cancer. In recent years, research has increasingly focused on one particular component of these vegetables, called sulforaphane.
"Among the phytochemicals in cruciferous vegetables that have been researched, sulforaphane is one of the more promising as a cancer fighter," writes Patrick Quillin in his book Beating Cancer with Nutrition.
In the current study, researchers found that some human and mouse prostate cells were less likely to turn cancerous when exposed to the chemical. The effect was only seen, however, in cell lines deficient in a gene known as PTEN.
"The cells became less competitive," researcher Richard Mithen said.
PTEN produces a protein that suppresses tumors by regulating cell growth and natural cell death. The gene also plays a role in cell movement and genetic regulation within cells. Previous research has linked a weakened or absent PTEN gene to a faster spread of prostate cancer.
"PTEN is a tumor suppressor gene, the deletion or inactivation of which can initiate prostate cancer development and enhance the probability of its progression," Mithen said. "We've shown that sulforaphane has different effects depending on whether the PTEN gene is present."
Eating broccoli is only one part of a healthy, cancer-fighting lifestyle, said Kate Holmes of The Prostate Cancer Charity.
"Moving away from a diet rich in meat and saturated fat will improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, as well as possibly helping to prevent prostate cancer," she said. "A diet rich in fruit and vegetables combined with a physically active lifestyle gives you the best chance of protecting your long-term health."