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New UK study finds broccoli and tea can play ‘significant role’ in cancer prevention

A new UK study has found that broccoli and tea can be helpful in the prevention of cancer. 

Research by Bedfordshire Hospitals Consultant Professor Robert Thomas, who co-led a national scientific study, suggests that consuming broccoli and drinking tea can act as allies in preventing cancer.

The study – two separate pieces of research (click on the links below to read each study in more detail) – were virtually presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Conference on 31st May 2020.

Professor Thomas’ research supports the anti-cancer attributes of tea (Pixabay: Langll)

These studies analysed one of the largest data sets in the world with over 155,000 people followed for a period of 12 years.

The first study definitively confirmed regularly eating broccoli reduces cancer risk by approximately 5 per cent, with the second study showing regularly drinking tea reduced the risk of prostate cancer. 

Commenting on the studies, Professor Thomas, Oncologist and Nutritional Scientist said: “The robust nature of this data has put to rest any uncertainties about the cancer protective benefits of these two foods. 

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“It’s reassuring to see this research supports the anti-cancer attributes of tea and broccoli reported in our previous study involving men with prostate cancer and this has now given us encouragement and justification to consider a new preventative study involving these and another polyphenol rich foods for all cancers.”

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are a good source of polyphenols called isothiocyanates (ITCs) and the metabolite sulforaphane. In laboratory studies, these polyphenols have been found to inhibit growth and promote programmed death of cancer cells.

Broccoli is a good source of polyphenols called isothiocyanates (ITCs) and the metabolite sulforaphane, which were found to inhibit cancer growth (Pixabay: Engin_Ackyurt)

Previous observational and case controlled studies in humans have suggested that they may decrease risk of cancer and reduce the risk of cancer progressing to more aggressive genotypes through induction of antioxidant enzymes, including glutathione S-transferases (GSTs) – which is responsible for disarming carcinogens in our diet.

Tea (usually made from Camellia Sinensis leaves) is rich in flavonoid polyphenols, notably catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate and proanthocyanidins.

Whole tea or concentrated extracts have been reported to have anti-cancer activity in a laboratory studies via their ability to enhance oxidative capacity, modulate inflammatory and cell-signalling pathways that prevent the transformation of healthy cells to cancerous cells.

In humans some, but not all studies, have linked tea consumption with a lower cancer risk especially those which grouped tea with other dietary and lifestyle factors. 

Professor Robert Thomas