Breast Cancer Diet: Broccoli and Green Tea Could Make Deadly Tumors Treatable

New research indicates that broccoli could actually make some forms of breast cancer more treatable. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

In this wellness era brimming with kale smoothies, you don't need a study to tell you why it's a good idea to eat vegetables. Plant-based diets are attributed to better heart health, lower blood pressure and now making deadly breast cancer tumors treatable.

Plenty of studies have linked fruits and vegetables to a lower incidence of cancer, but a new study looked at how two specific compounds found in food could treat women who have the most fatal type of breast cancer.

Typically, researchers focus on one compound to avoid any adverse consequences of comingling, but a team believed that sulforaphane, found in cruciferous vegetables, and polyphenols, in green tea, would pair well, according to a release.

They hoped the compounds would turn tumors not fueled by estrogen, called estrogen receptor–negative, into a form of the disease known as ER-positive. The ER-negative forms are deadlier since hormonal therapies don't work, leaving women with fewer treatment options.

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In a lab, mice were given an "anti-cancer" diet containing the compounds two weeks before researchers injected them with breast cancer cells. The plan continued following their "diagnosis" to show potential prevention and treatment strategies. The team found that this combination actually made the tumors ER-positive, allowing them to be treatable with hormone therapy. Somehow, the diet was able to create an epigenetic change, altering the disease's genes without changing DNA.

Because the study, published this week in Scientific Reports, took place in mice, there's no telling whether the results apply to human breast cancers. The team, from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, hopes to start a clinical trial in humans to see if simply eating broccoli could save thousands of lives. But that doesn't mean you can't actually implement the epigenetics diet, as study co-author Trygve Tollefsbol calls it.

"Our studies suggest that the diet could be incorporated at any age and in patients who have estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer," he tells Newsweek in an email.

Tollefsbol reinforces that while the diet won't be standard in breast cancer treatment plans anytime soon, there's no harm in adding broccoli and tea to your shopping cart.

"The consumption of this diet consisting of cruciferous vegetable and green tea is generally considered very safe," he says.

You can adopt the human equivalent of Tollefsbol's mouse diet into your own routine as a preventative measure by drinking two cups of green tea and eating two cups of broccoli sprouts per day.