Researchers are prescribing broccoli for reducing breast cancer risk, and other cruciferous vegetables aren't far behind either. Leafy vegetables such as kale, cauliflower and cabbage, contain chemicals that prevent a number of different cancers.
However, now experts have discovered that the compound in broccoli can actually kill breast cancer cells.
University of California researchers have revealed for the first time how the healing power of these vegetables works in the cells, reports the Daily Express.
The study has been published in the journal Carcinogenesis.
The research, which was carried out by Leslie Wilson, professor of biochemistry and pharmacology, and Mary Ann Jordan, adjunct professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, at the university's Santa Barbara laboratories, found that a compound in broccoli inhibits the rapid growth of tumor cells in a similar way to chemotherapy drug taxol and vincristine, a drug which kills cells that reproduce the fastest.
The drugs inhibit cell division during mitosis, the process by which cells split apart and divide.
Graduate student Olga Azarenko, who worked on the project, said: "Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, can be protected against by eating cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and near relatives of cabbage such as broccoli and cauliflower.
"These vegetables contain compounds called isothiocyanates which we believe to be responsible for the cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic activities in these vegetables. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of the isothiocyanates.
"Our paper focuses on the anti-cancer activity of one of these compounds, called sulforaphane, or SFN. It has already been shown to reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals. It inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death."