Your mom was right when she told you to eat your broccoli, or at least your broccoli sprouts. Researchers have found that this rich source of isothiocyanates (ITCs) – a well-known class of cancer prevention agents — could play a direct role in preventing bladder cancer.

“The bladder is like a storage bag, and cancers in the bladder occurs almost entirely along the inner surface, the epithelium, that faces the urine, presumably because this tissue is assaulted all the time by noxious materials in the urine,” said senior author Yuesheng Zhang, M.D., Ph.D, professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. “The ITCs in broccoli sprout extracts after oral ingestion are selectively delivered to the bladder epithelium through urine excretion.”

Using a rat model of bladder cancer, Zhang and his colleagues found that freeze-dried aqueous extract of broccoli sprouts significantly, and dose-dependently, inhibited bladder cancer development. The incidence, multiplicity, size and progression of bladder cancer were all inhibited by the extract, while the extract itself caused no observable changes in the bladder. This protective effect of the extracts was associated with a significant increase in the bladder of several enzymes that are known to protect against oxidants and carcinogens, Zhang says