Cruciferous Vegetables and Prostate Cancer Risk

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Isothiocyanates are a class of dietary compounds that are found in most cruciferous (“brassica”) vegetables. (Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, chinese broccoli, broccoli rabe, collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, rutabaga, arugula, radish, and watercress.) Isothiocyanates, which are partially responsible for the bitter, sulfurous taste of many cruciferous vegetables, have been extensively studied as potential cancer prevention agents. Among the cancers that dietary isothiocyanates may help to prevent is prostate cancer (the most common type of cancer among men).

A newly published laboratory research study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, suggests that dietary isothiocyanates may indeed reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. In this study, laboratory mice that are predisposed to developing prostate cancer were divided into two groups. The “experimental” group of mice was fed a diet supplemented with phenethyl isothiocyanate (3 µnol per gram), while the “control” group of mice was fed a standard commercial mouse diet without added phenethyl isothiocyanate. After 19 weeks, the animals were sacrificed, and microscopic evaluation of their prostate glands was performed.

After extensive testing of the prostate glands of these male mice, it was discovered that the mice that were fed the phenethyl isothiocyanate supplement were 36 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer when compared to the mice in the “control” group. Moreover, among those mice, in both groups, that did go on to develop prostate cancer, the mice in the “experimental” group had tumors that were 26 percent smaller than the mice in the “control” group. Importantly, no toxic side effects were observed among the mice that received the phenethyl isothiocyanate supplement.

The findings of this particular laboratory research study are consistent with the findings of multiple other laboratory studies, and suggest that cruciferous vegetables may decrease the risk of prostate cancer, as well as other cancers. Moreover, there are numerous other laboratory studies that have identified specific mechanisms whereby isothiocyanates alter specific genetic and biochemical pathways that are known to be involved in the development of prostate cancer (and other types of cancer, as well).

While research studies involving laboratory mice or rats cannot directly prove that cruciferous vegetables, or isothiocyanate supplements, can actually reduce the risk of prostate cancer in humans, previous clinical research studies have suggested that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may, at a minimum, significantly reduce the risk of aggressive forms of prostate cancer in humans.


For a complete evidence-based discussion regarding a potential role for cruciferous vegetables and isothiocyanates as part of an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race. For the price of a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake, you can purchase this landmark new book, in both paperback and e-book formats, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle today!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the “Top 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!


Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author

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