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Studies show that broccoli extract may help prevent skin cancer
Mar 02, 2018

Researchers say that extracts made from broccoli sprouts can be applied directly to the skin to prevent skin cancer. VOA reporter Jessica Berman reports that scientists say broccoli contains a chemical substance.It stimulates the body's natural anti-cancer ability.

According to scientists, broccoli extract contains a chemical called sulphoraphane, which activates cancer-fighting enzymes inside cells.In a demonstration of the plant's anti-cancer properties, investigators smeared broccoli sprout extract on the skin of six volunteers for three days, and then exposed them to high doses of ultraviolet radiation, which is the leading cause of skin cancer. 

They found there was an average 37 percent less redness and sunburn in the patches covered by broccoli extract.The National Academy of Sciences published the results of the study.

Paul Talalay , Johns Hopkins University molecular pharmacologist and the author of the study.  “We want to avoid people doing strange things under any circumstances, such as making broccoli sprouting soup, smearing it on the skin and thinking they are protected by the sun,” he said. "They don't have any protection because it's a completely different mechanism and it's impossible to replace another mechanism."

Applied as a thick cream, sunscreen protects the skin by deflecting the sun's harmful rays.  But it must be constantly reapplied to remain effective. In contrast, Talalay says, a compound made of broccoli sprouts works by penetrating skin cells and stimulating their natural cancer-fighting mechanism.

Observers call the research promising, but say more studies are needed because the results varied considerably among participants, ranging from a low of eight percent to a high of 78 percent protection against sunburn.  Talalay disagrees.

"Everybody knows you go to the beach and you get fried and I go to the beach and nothing happens to me," he added.  "And we are in the same place.  So, the same experiment if done in a large number of individuals would be much more complex.  But I believe that the evidence certainly from animal studies is that we would get absolutely the same result."

Talalay believes if it works in the skin, a sulphoraphane extract from broccoli sprouts is very likely to act as a hedge against cancer in other organs.

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