Image Credit: Annie Cavanagh / Wellcome Images. This image has been modified.

Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli

In my post The Best Detox, I detailed how a phytonutrient in broccoli boosts the detoxifying enzymes in the liver. But helping to clear carcinogens isn’t the only way greens protect our DNA. A study of the DNA of broccoli-eaters found that eating broccoli appears to make DNA more resistant to damage, as I explore in my one-minute video, DNA Protection from Broccoli.

That was just one of several extraordinary studies published lately on cruciferous vegetables. Kale and the Immune System compares the immune system-boosting effect of cooked versus raw kale, a follow-up on my Best Cooking Method video. Smoking Versus Kale Juice looks at the Japanese health fad of doing shots of kale juice. Seems kale can boost our good cholesterol, like amla and cocoa. Is there anything kale can’t do?

Broccoli Versus Breast Cancer Stem Cells documents the most important study of the lot, though, exploring the role phytonutrients in certain greens play in a new theory of cancer biology, cancer stem cells, which explains why breast cancer can relapse 25 years after you thought it went away.

Sure, cruciferous vegetables produce a compound that appears to target breast cancer cells, but that’s in a test tube. How do we even know we absorb broccoli phytonutrients into our bloodstream? And even if we do, how much do we have to eat to arrive at the test tube concentrations featured in the studies where it counts—in breast tissue itself? An innovative group at Johns Hopkins figured it out. They found women scheduled for breast reduction surgery, and an hour before they went into the operating room, had them drink some broccoli sprout juice. Check out my 2-minute video Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast to see what they found.

Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer of young women, but lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women overall. In my 3-minute Lung Cancer Metastases and Broccoli I talk about some fascinating new research on the effects of broccoli on cancer cell migration, suggesting that broccoli and broccoli sprouts may decrease the metastatic potential of lung cancer.

Worried about the safety of raw sprouts? You’re probably thinking about alfalfa (Don’t Eat Raw Alfalfa Sprouts and Update on Alfalfa Sprouts). Broccoli sprouts appear much safer in terms of the risk of food poisoning (as noted in Broccoli Sprouts).

We know this family of vegetables helps prevent cancer, but once you already have cancer, what dietary changes can one make to improve survival? Raw Broccoli and Bladder Cancer Survival completed my 13-video series on the latest research on cruciferous vegetables.

I previously covered a bit of the prevention side of the story in The Healthiest Vegetables. Wasn’t there some report downplaying the role of fruits and vegetables in cancer prevention, though? Watch my 2-minute take on it in EPIC Study.

Oh, and eat your greens!

-Michael Greger, M.D.


Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

9 responses to “Breast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli

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  1. Dear Dr. Greger, I am a long time vegetarian who recently became vegan due to the wealth of information on your website. I am also a movement disorder neurologist who is trying to get more of my Parkinson’s disease patients (and any other friends, family and patients I can convince!) to consider a vegan diet. I am sorry to hear that your father has PD. My question is regarding a patient who was reluctant to try a vegan diet because of concerns regarding soy isoflavones and her synthroid-treated hypothroidism. I would love to get your take on this issue.

    1. There are lots of vegans who eat absolutely no soy products. Being vegan does not imply that one must eat soy to thrive. The majority of vegans I know avoid soy products in all shapes and forms, even in small quantities. Suggest to your patient black beans, chickpeas, lentils…..certain raw nuts and seeds. Oh my, there are tons of soy alternatives out there for vegans to indulge in, thrive on, and enjoy! You also might want to suggest to your patient to be mindful of some of the veggies that can compromise the thyroid. I think Dr. Greger has some information on this. Cooking methods can, supposedly make a difference, as can portion size. Google “foods harmful to the thyroid” as a start, and try to work up to the “truth” from there. But please, vegans are not dependent on soy.

  2. […] when to use chemotherapy in women with breast cancer and hormone receptor positive? If no lymph nod…ymph nodes involved and has the characteristics of minimal risk, you want to use hormone therapy alone (anti-estrogen removal of the ovaries). If no lymph nodes involved and have risk factors means that you want to use hormones and continue therpay chemotherpy first you do not reply. If the lymph nodes are involved, you want to use the chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. It's a bit modified depending on whether you are menopausal or before, but it is based. Minimal Risk = hormone, tumor size ≤ 2 cm, Grade I and age ≥ 35 medium risk = tumor size> 2 cm, Grade 2-3, Age <35 or HER2 Professor Max Wicha – Breast cancer stem cell regulation […]

  3. Quoting…”An innovative group at Johns Hopkins figured it out. They found women scheduled for breast reduction surgery, and an hour before they went into the operating room, had them drink some broccoli sprout juice”….
    An hour before surgery they drank broccoli sprout juice?? Drinking anything before surgery is dangerous. Not sure where this info came from.

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