Cruciferous vegetables and colo-rectal cancer

Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Feb;65(1):135-44. doi: 10.1079/pns2005486.


Cruciferous vegetables have been studied extensively for their chemoprotective effects. Although they contain many bioactive compounds, the anti-carcinogenic actions of cruciferous vegetables are commonly attributed to their content of glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are relatively biologically inert but can be hydrolysed to a range of bioactive compounds such as isothiocyanates (ITC) and indoles by the plant-based enzyme myrosinase, or less efficiently by the colonic microflora. A number of mechanisms whereby ITC and indoles may protect against colo-rectal cancer have been identified. In experimental animals cruciferous vegetables have been shown to inhibit chemically-induced colon cancer. However, the results of recent epidemiological cohort studies have been inconsistent and this disparity may reflect a lack of sensitivity of such studies. Possible explanations for the failure of epidemiological studies to detect an effect include: assessment of cruciferous vegetable intake by methods that are subject to large measurement errors; the interaction between diet and genotype has not been considered: the effect that post-harvest treatments may have on biological effects of cruciferous vegetables has not been taken into account.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Brassicaceae* / chemistry
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Food Handling / methods
  • Glucosinolates / administration & dosage
  • Glucosinolates / metabolism*
  • Glucosinolates / pharmacology*
  • Glycoside Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / metabolism


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Glucosinolates
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Glycoside Hydrolases