Can A Cabbage A
Day Keep Cancer Away?
If you are a woman,
you should be concerned about breast cancer. If you are a man, you
should be concerned about prostate cancer. And if you are concerned
about either breast cancer or prostate cancer, you should know that
eating cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, is
really good for you. Eating half of a head of cabbage each day or
extremely large amounts of other cruciferous vegetables is what it
would take to get the kind of health risk reduction you're looking
for-and that is neither practical nor palatable. But, if science
could separate the cancer fighting substance in the vegetables and
pack them into a pill or capsule, it might actually help save your
life. That is precisely what has happened.
indole-3-- carbinol (I3C)?
The indole group of sulfur compounds binds to chemical carcinogens
and activates enzymes that in turn detoxify those chemical
carcinogens. Indole-3carbinol (130 is a phytonutrient that occurs
naturally in certain cruciferous vegetables, appearing to affect
estrogen metabolism in ways that might help prevent breast cancer,1
and indole-3-carbinol may also be critical in preventing or
retarding prostate cancer.2 I3C is the specific phytonutrient that
has been shown to act as a catalyst to pull estradiol down a benign
pathway to 2-hydroxyestrone. After isolating I3C, scientists have
been able to prepare nutraceuticals of I3C at the proper physiologic
dose to help prevent both breast cancer in women and prostate cancer
in men. Every non-pregnant woman3 and every man should consider
taking pharmacy grade I3C as part of his or her daily nutraceutical
regimen for disease prevention.
In 1991 researchers at the Institute for Hormone Research in New
York City proved that I3C significantly reduced the incidence and,
in fact, the number of tumors in female mice prone to developing
breast cancer. In human studies, levels of "strong" estrogen
declined and levels of "weak" estrogen increased and most important,
there was a marked decrease in the level of the estrogen metabolite
associated with breast and endometrial cancer (16-- alpha-hydroxyestrone).
Furthermore, I3C fits into the aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor but
according to researchers at Texas A&M, unlike the toxic chemical
dioxin, that also activates the Ah receptor, I3C not only positively
affects estrogen metabolism but I3C also can keep dioxin out of the
But if I3C alters
estrogen metabolism, how can it be effective in preventing or even
retarding prostate cancer? When the cancer cell is stopped at the
checkpoint, the body has more of a chance to destroy it before it
can grow. Furthermore, because it is the balance of hormone cells in
prostate cancer that is important, rather than the level of any
particular hormone, how is it possible for I3C to be effective
against prostate cancer? The answer is that its effectiveness
against prostate cancer comes from the other anticancer properties
that I3C contains. Indole-3-carbinol has been shown to force cancer
cells to stop at "checkpoints," like a normal, healthy cell does
before replicating. It also has the potential to help restore
communication to the sex hormones through the Ah receptor discussed
above. In prostate cancer, sex hormone cells cannot communicate
normally, telling other cells to do things like grow. It appears
that I3C is one of a few substances4 that have the ability to
indole-3-carbinol absolutely prevent breast cancer or stop or retard
No one knows for sure, but current government studies are very
promising. The problem seems to be that these studies are too
limited in scope (less than 250 women) and lacking the hundreds of
millions of dollars that have gone into the research and development
of synthetic chemicals like tamoxifen. Can it be that the money for
research and development is more likely to go to drugs on which
companies can claim patents rather than on such natural substances
as those found in a head of cabbage?
Meanwhile, even the
American Cancer Society has advised men to reduce their risk of
prostate cancer by increasing their intake of cruciferous
vegetables. Studies, such as in 1998 from the University of
California at Berkeley,5 have shown that indole-3-carbinol was 30
percent more effective than tamoxifen in inhibiting the growth of
estrogen receptor-- positive breast cancer cells. Thus it would be
wise to take heed of what your grandmother used to tell you: "Eat
your vegetables. They're good for you."
1. American Institute for Cancer Research, September 25, 2000.
2. Cohen, J. H., et
al. "Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer risk," Journal
of the National Cancer Institute, (2000).Vol. 92 pp. 61-8.
3. It is important
to note that pregnant women should not take I3C because it modulates
estrogen. Many pregnant women have a natural aversion to cruciferous
vegetables; this may be du, to the changes in estrogen metabolism
that normally occur with pregnancy.
4. Cover, Carolyn
M., Bjeldanes, Firestone et al. Journal of Biological Chemist
February 13, 1998.
5. Journal of the
British Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, August 2000, p.33.
6. Journal of
Cellular Biochemisty Supplements 28/29:111-6. Strang Cancer
Prevention Center, New York, NY.