printable article

Originally published January 5 2009

How Cruciferous Veggies Like Broccoli Fight Breast Cancer

by Sherry Baker, Health Sciences Editor

(NaturalNews) Food in the cruciferous, or cabbage, family of vegetables all contain phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that make them healthy food choices. In addition, researchers have long noted an association between a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy and cabbage and a decreased risk in breast cancer. But how do these foods in particular exert their protective effect?

Scientists in the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) say they've found the answer. In a study just published in the December issue of the journal Carcinogenesis, Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, and their research team reveal how the healing power of these vegetables works at the cellular level.

"Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower. These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates," the study's first author Olga Azarenko, a graduate student at UCSB, explained in a statement to the media.

The new study focuses on the anti-cancer activity of one of these isothiocyanates dubbed sulforaphane, or SFN. "It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death," Azarenko stated in the press release.

Azarenko discovered SFN inhibits the proliferation of human tumor cells in much the same way anticancer drugs taxol and vincristine do. However, SFN is much less toxic than the currently used drugs.

"SFN may be an effective cancer preventive agent because it inhibits the proliferation and kills precancerous cells. It is also possible that it could be used as an addition to taxol and other similar drugs to increase effective killing of tumor cells without increased toxicity," Professor Wilson noted in the media statement.

In another study published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at the diets of more than 6,000 Chinese women and found that those with the highest intake of two cruciferous vegetables, Chinese cabbage and white turnips, had a lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than those who had the lowest intake.

Interested in adding more cruciferous vegetables to you diet? Remember that eating them raw or only lightly steamed is the best way to retain their phytochemicals and other anti-cancer compounds.

For more information on the UCSB study:

About the author

Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA’s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic’s "Men’s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.

All content posted on this site is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech. Truth Publishing LLC takes sole responsibility for all content. Truth Publishing sells no hard products and earns no money from the recommendation of products. is presented for educational and commentary purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice from any licensed practitioner. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. For the full terms of usage of this material, visit