Cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts - What do they have in common with breast cancer? Investigating the dramatic decrease of breast cancer cases in European women during World War II, scientists discovered an interesting, significant correlation between the disease and the regular consumption of these vegetables.
More isolative research pinned indole-3-carbinol (I3C) as the responsible nutrient with cancer fighting properties, contained by these vegetables.
What Is Indole-3-Carbinol?
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is derived from the hydrolysis (breakdown) of glucobrassicin, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, turnips, and rutabagas. In 1978, Dr. Leo Wattenberg and his coworkers at the University of Minnesota conducted extensive research on cabbage and related vegetables, establishing I3C as the active compound with inhibitory and restorative properties, more precisely for neoplasia and similar conditions.
How Does Indole-3-Carbinol Help With Breast Cancer?
Recent studies have shown that I3C significantly prevents breast, cervical and endometrial cancer in women and prevents prostate cancer in men. Studies proved that I3C not only stopped 54-61% of human cancer cells from growing, but actually provoked the cells to self destruct.
The results of a 1997 study on sixty women with increased risk for breast cancer showed that I3C at a minimum effective dose schedule of 300 mg per day is a promising chemo preventive agent for breast cancer prevention.
A study in 2000 showed that I3C caused complete regression of cervical cancer in 50% of the patients with this cancer. Dr. Leon Bradlow and those working with him at the Rockefeller University demonstrated that in about 60-70% of the women they tested by giving them I3C, there was a change in the metabolism of estrogenic hormones. Cancer is a wild type of cell division, so if you want cancer prevention, you want to control estrogen metabolism.
The Connection Between Estrogen and Breast Cancer
Estrogen is shown to be metabolized into two major pathways. One pathway leads to an end product of 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone (16-OH-estrone) and the other pathway leads to the formation of an end product of 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OH-estrone). Different women will metabolize estrogen via these different pathways to varying degrees. This is important because it is found that the 16-OH-estrone metabolite is carcinogenic, a strong promoter of breast and cervical cancer, while the 2-OH-estrone metabolite is cancer protective. This 16-OH-estrone/2-OH estrone ratio can now be measured with a simple urine test.
There is a genetic predisposition to favor one pathway over another, with women whose family histories of breast cancer favoring the 16-OH-estrone pathway. In addition, however, there are many other lifestyle, environmental and dietary variables that influence this ratio. Indole-3-carbinol can significantly promote the estrogen to be metabolized via the favorable 2-OH-estrone pathway and away from the 16-OH-estrone pathway.
While it might make sense that eating cruciferous vegetables would be a good health insurance policy, it is hardly practical to eat a head of cabbage and several pounds of cauliflower each day. Indole-3-carbinol might be one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of breast and other cancers. In addition, the I3C works synergistically with artemisinin and quercetin for maximal cancer protection.
1. Kent Holtorf, MD. “Indole-3-Carbinol and Breast Cancer Prevention.” Holtorf Medical Group.
2. Wong GY, Bradlow L, Sepkovic D, Mehl S, Mailman J, Osborne MP. “Dose-ranging study of indole-3-carbinol for breast cancer prevention.” J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1997;28-29:111-6.