Can Broccoli and Cauliflower Really Kill Cancer?

Your mom always told you to eat your vegetables

Christa Sgobba |

Mom knows best: A compound found in certain vegetables like broccoli may play a role in treating skin cancer, research in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry suggests.

In the study, researchers developed a drug based on naturally-occurring compounds called isothiocyanates, which are found in vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Then, they tested it on both human and mice melanoma cells—the deadliest form of skin cancer.

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The researchers discovered that the drug caused human melanoma cells to die, and hampered melanoma tumor growth in the mouse models by 69 percent.

Because the drug is easily eliminated from the body, it should help reduce possible toxicity effects—a problem with past drugs tested for melanoma—and fight the cancer with little harm to nearby healthy cells.

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How it works still isn’t exactly clear, but the researchers believe the compound targets a process involved in cell division and growth, they explain in a statement.

Still, the work is preliminary. And because the drug is just based off isothiocyanates, which are found in foods, simply eating your vegetables probably won’t be enough to actually fight melanoma.

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“There are a lot of recommendations that, for example, broccoli can reduce your chances of getting cancer,” study author Dr. Arun Sharma, said in the statement. “Those are OK recommendations for prevention, but the compounds in the vegetables alone may not be potent enough to be used in a therapeutic environment.”

But that’s not saying you should skip your vegetables, though: People who eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 13 percent less likely to develop cancer, as we reported—plus, their risk of heart disease and stroke was much lower, too.

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