A new study based on research in pregnant mice suggest that children born to mothers who eat large amounts of cruciferous vegetables during pregnancy may show more resistance to leukemia and lymphoma in their childhood and lung cancer in their adulthood.
In this study, researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University discovered that a phytochemical administered in pregnant mice, help protect baby mice from developing leukemia and lymphoma in their infancy and lung cancer during the animal's later stage.
The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Carcinogenesis and demonstrates the significant role, prenatal and maternal diet may play in cancer prevention and cancer development. The dietary effect of either protecting or causing cancer may begin in the womb and last far into adulthood.
'There's strong epidemiologic evidence that infant cancers can be caused by exposure of the fetus to carcinogens, either during pregnancy or by nursing,' said David Williams, an LPI researcher and director of the Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center at OSU.
A 2005 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group took umbilical cord blood samples from 10 babies and found 287 chemicals. Among the 287chemicals detected, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans and animals, according to the EWG.
Earlier researches have shown that pollutants in mothers' blood such as PAHs, PCBs and dioxins, can be transmitted to the fetus through the placental barrier and during nursing.
The current study demonstrates the effect of a particular group of carcinogens known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHS on infants and how a phytochemical may counteract the cancer-causing agent.
PAHs are also produced by cigarette smoking or the incomplete combustion of organic materials such as wood, coal, cooking oil or diesel fuel and can cause DNA damage in newborns and increase risk of childhood leukemia, the researchers said.
Two groups of pregnant mice were exposed to a single high dose of dibenzoyrene, a cancer causing PAH. In addition, one group of mice was also given a high dose of a chemoprotective supplement Indole-3-carbinol or I3C.
80 percent of the offsprings of pregnant mice that did not receive the supplement, died early in life from T-cell lymphoma. Among those that lived, 100 percent acquired lung tumors in their middle age, the study found.
In contrast, only 50% of the mice born to those pregnant mice that also received indole-3-carbinol, died from lymphoma and the number of lung tumors also was significantly lower.
'It's clear that in mice this supplement provided significant protection against lymphoma and, later on, lung cancer,' Williams said.
Even though the chemoprotective effect of indole-3-carbinol seems to be real in humans, the researchers cautioned that pregnant women should not take high doses of indole-3-carbinol as it is believed that taking a high dose of indole-3-carbinol in the first trimester could cause birth defects.
However, a diet high in indole-3-carbinol appears to be safe and helpful, the researchers said. Indole-3-carbinol is present in vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radishes, turnips and other greens.
Extensive research on Indole-3-carbinol is being done to study its chemoprotective effects against cancers- including breast cancer.