Wearing your food
From Baltimore, at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research
Broccoli, no doubt, is a healthful food. But for those who don’t like its flavor, there may be another way to reap the vegetable’s benefits. Researchers have determined that when sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, is applied to the skin of cancer-prone mice after sun exposure, they develop fewer skin tumors then they otherwise would.
The team exposed hairless mice to intensities of ultraviolet light comparable to what a person would soak up sunbathing twice a week for 20 weeks. For the next 11 weeks, the mice received either high or low topical doses of sulforaphane or no treatment at all.
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The mice that received high doses had 50 percent fewer skin tumors than did those not getting the chemical rub. The low-dose mice fared slightly better than mice getting no sulforaphane but not as well as the animals getting a high extract dose, report Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and her colleagues.
Previous animal studies had shown that ingesting sulforaphane inactivates carcinogens and neutralizes reactive oxygen, a molecular species that can cause disease.
Dinkova-Kostova says that she and her team weren’t looking for a “sunscreen effect.” They suggest that the compound could reduce cancer incidence in adults exposed to excessive sun as children. Next step: concocting an extract-of-broccoli lotion and conducting experiments with people.