Vegetables Against Cancer

by Dr. Geo Espinosa

Here is a quick look at some of the research on vegetables and cancer.


Cruciferous or Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, collard greens, and kale, are rich in sulforaphane and indole-3 carbinol (I3C) (Higdon et al. 2007).


Learn more about cruciferous vegetables in Eat This, Detox That


Sulforophane and I3C are two of the best known plant chemicals that have been researched for cancer benefits. I3C is converted by the body to 3’3 Diindolymethane (DIM) which is the compound that has the anti-cancer benefits.


According to scientific research, these phytochemicals possess anti-carcinogenic properties, such as halting progression of cancer cells (cell cycle arrest), inhibition of tumor invasion and angiogenesis, anti-inflammatory activity, inhibition of extracellular signal-regulated kinases, proteasome degradation, and alteration of phase I and phase II biotransformation enzyme expression (Krystal et al, & Singh et al. 2005).


Sulforaphane has also been shown to induce apoptosis (cancer cell death) in prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo (Choi et al 2005) and I3C has anti-proliferative and anti-metastatic properties in animal models of CaP once converted to DIM (Garikapaty et al. 2005).


A preliminary study of men newly diagnosed with prostate cancer showed a 41% decreased risk of prostate cancer among men eating three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables per week, compared with those eating less than one serving per week.


Read Soy and Prostate Health


Protective effects of cruciferous vegetables were thought to be due to their high concentration of the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as their stimulatory effects on the breakdown of environmental carcinogens associated with prostate cancer. (Cohen et al. 2000).




Higdon, J. V., Delage, B., Williams, D. E., Dashwood, R. H., Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: Epidemio- logic evidence and mechanistic basis, Pharmacol. Res. 2007, 55, 224 – 236.


Kristal, A. R., Lampe, J. W., Brassica vegetables and prostate cancer risk: A review of the epidemiological evidence, Nutr.


Singh, S. V., Srivastava, S. K., Choi, S., Lew, K. L., et al., Sulforaphane-induced cell death in human prostate cancer cells is initiated by reactive oxygen species, J. Biol. Chem. 2005, 280, 19911 – 19924.


Choi, S., Lew, K. L., Xiao, H., Herman-Antosiewicz, A., et al., D,L-Sulforaphane-induced cell death in human prostate cancer cells is regulated by inhibitor of apoptosis family pro- teins and Apaf-1, Carcinogenesis 2007, 28, 151 – 162.


Garikapaty, V. P., Ashok, B. T., Chen, Y. G., Mittelman, A., et al., Anti-carcinogenic and anti-metastatic properties of indole-3-carbinol in prostate cancer, Oncol. Rep. 2005, 13, 89–93.


Cohen JH, Kristal AR, Stanford JL. Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst 2000;92(1):61–8.


Parsons JK, Newman V, Mohler JL, Pierce JP, Paskett E and Marshall J: The Men’s Eating and Living (MEAL) study: a cancer and leukemia group B pilot trial of dietary interven- tion for the treatment of prostate cancer. Urology 2008


About Dr. Geo Espinosa


Geo Espinosa, N.D., L.Ac, CNS, is the Director of the Integrative Urology Center at New York University Langone Medical Center. Before joining NYU, Dr. Geo was a clinician, researcher and director of clinical trials at the Center for Holistic Urology at Columbia University Medical Center. He is a licensed naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and Certified Nutrition Specialist. Dr. Geo did his residency/fellowship in Urology at Columbia University Medical Center, Department of Urology under Dr. Aaron Katz. His research and practice is exclusive to prostate disorders, general urology and men’s health.


Dr. Geo is a member of the American Herbalist Guild, the American Urological Association, and the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.


Dr. Geo is an author of the naturopathic entry in “1000 Cures for 200 Ailments,” by Harper Collins; March 2007 and “Prostate cancer – Nutrients that may slow its progression,” Chapter 40 in Food and Nutrients in Disease Management – Maryland: Cadmus Publishing, 2009. He has authored papers on prostate cancer and BPH in the journal of European Urology and Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice respectively. For more on Dr. Geo’s work, see Dr. Geo’s Natural Health Blog and join him on Facebook.



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