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.

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.

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