While most people prefer to spray a nice coconut-smelling sun cream over their exposed areas when they head out into the sun, a new study suggests broccoli – the very same green fluffy-headed vegetable we tend to stick in our stir-frys – could do just as well.
The American researchers found that when rubbed directly onto the skin, broccoli could help lower a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.
The pilot study was a team job between Dr Sally Dickinson, research assistant professor in the Pharmacology Department of the University of Arizona Cancer Centre and researchers from John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Dr Dickenson wanted to uncover methods of skin cancer prevention that could be manufactured commercially at a low cost to the public.
Skin cancer is currently a big problem in the U.S., and according to the American Cancer Society it is the most common type of cancer.
So what is it about this unassuming vegetable that has cancer researchers so excited?
Apparently, broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane, which is not only extremely effective at blocking cancer-causing pathways such as the Ap-1 protein, but also beneficial during cancer treatment as it triggers chemoprotective genes.
These genes can help protect healthy tissue from damage during chemotherapy treatment used to fight cancerous growths.
Dr Dickinson said: “Sulforaphane may be an excellent candidate for use in the prevention of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. It is the kind of compound that has so many incredible theoretical applications if the dosage is measured properly.”
Scientists already know that sulforaphane can stop the skin from becoming sunburned, and they have seen cases of it triggering protective enzymes in the skin. This could potentially help save a lot of lives in the U.S. – especially of those living in the hotter areas. It is thought that sun damage is one of the main causes of the most aggressive form of skin cancer, known as malignant melanoma.
Broccoli is best known for its nutritious qualities including vitamins, protein, calcium and iron. To find out about the importance of nutrition for protecting against and living with cancer, please visit our Cancer page.
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