Cruciferous Vegetables: Dietary Phytochemicals for Cancer Prevention


Relationships between diet and health have attracted attention for centuries; but links between diet andcancer have been a focus only in recent decades. The consumption of diet-containing carcinogens, includingpolycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines is most closely correlated with increasing cancer risk.Epidemiological evidence strongly suggests that consumption of dietary phytochemicals found in vegetables andfruit can decrease cancer incidence. Among the various vegetables, broccoli and other cruciferous species appearmost closely associated with reduced cancer risk in organs such as the colorectum, lung, prostate and breast.The protecting effects against cancer risk have been attributed, at least partly, due to their comparatively highamounts of glucosinolates, which differentiate them from other vegetables. Glucosinolates, a class of sulphurcontainingglycosides, present at substantial amounts in cruciferous vegetables, and their breakdown productssuch as the isothiocyanates, are believed to be responsible for their health benefits. However, the underlyingmechanisms responsible for the chemopreventive effect of these compounds are likely to be manifold, possiblyconcerning very complex interactions, and thus difficult to fully understand. Therefore, this article providesa brief overview about the mechanism of such compounds involved in modulation of carcinogen metabolisingenzyme systems.