Broccoli may not be the world’s favourite vegetable, but is proving to be a genuinely healthy component of a meal. Previous research has shown that it can fight cancer-inducing bacteria and now a new study has found that it can play a part in reducing prostate cancer risk.
Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer in men so finding ways to prevent it can have a significant impact on people’s lives.
Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Molecular Cancer have found that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, interacts with cells lacking a gene called PTEN to reduce the chances of prostate cancer developing.
The presence of PTEN in a cell helps it to fight the development of tumours. Cells without an active copy of this gene are more at risk of cancer tumours developing.
Richard Mithen, from the Institute of Food Research, and a team from Norwich Research Park, UK carried out a series of experiments on both human prostate tissue and mice to investigate the anti-cancer activity of sulforaphane and its interactions with the PTEN gene.
They found that contain PTEN, the broccoli extract had no effect. But in those cells that did not contain PTEN, and were therefore at more risk of tumour development, sulforaphane causes them to become less competitive, thus reducing their chances of spreading any tumours.
Commenting on the results, Mithen said that “PTEN is a tumour suppressor gene, the deletion or inactivation of which can initiate prostate carcinogenesis, and enhance the probability of cancer progression. We’ve shown here that sulforaphane has different effects depending on whether the PTEN gene is present.”
More work needs to be done to turn this research into practical applications, but in the meantime it wouldn’t hurt to consider adding a portion of broccoli to your five a day.