SEATTLE -- Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, based here, have found that eating more broccoli -- or even coleslaw -- may help protect men from prostate cancer.
A study conducted at the center found that three daily servings of vegetables cut a man's risk of prostate cancer nearly in half. At the same time, the survey found that consumption of tomato products may not have as much effect on cancer prevention as had previously been believed. Earlier research had extolled the cancer-fighting abilities of lypocene, a carotenoid found in abundance in cooked tomatoes, but this new study calls those results into question.
Vegetables are believed to protect against cancer because they contain a wide variety of phytochemicals, which are toxins produced to protect the plant. When consumed, these phytochemicals trigger the activity of enzymes that can detoxify cancer-promoting compounds in the body, according to the published report.
"When we compared relative potency, vegetables from the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, reduced the risk [of prostate cancer]," said Dr. Alan Kristal, a co-investigator for the study.
The new study examined total fruit and vegetable consumption in 1,230 Seattle-area men between the ages of 40 and 64, half of whom had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, while the other half were randomly selected. The results showed that men who ate three or more servings of vegetables a day had a 48% lower risk of prostate cancer compared with men who ate fewer than one serving a day.
Most effective were the cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage-based dishes such as sauerkraut and coleslaw. According to Kristal, broccoli contains a certain type of phytochemical that boosts production of a particular enzyme that is active in the prostate.
"At any given level of total vegetable consumption, as the percent of cruciferous vegetables increased, the prostate cancer risk decreased," said Kristal.