Sulforaphane—a naturally occurring compound in broccoli—may help reduce skin cancer risk. Instead of filling their plate up with this tasty cruciferous veggies, Sally Dickinson, PhD, is asking patients to apply small doses of sulforaphane to their skin.Sally opt-1

“We’re searching for better methods to prevent skin cancer in formats that are affordable and manageable for public use. Sulforaphane may be an excellent candidate for use in the prevention of skin cancer caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays,” says Dickinson (pictured above), a research assistant professor in the Pharmacology Department at the University of Arizona and the UA Cancer Center.

Her research shows that sulforaphane is a highly adaptable, highly effective agent when it comes to inhibiting cancer-causing pathways (such as the AP-1 protein), while activating chemoprotective genes (such as the Nrf2 gene). Dickinson’s pilot study in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University will test a topical broccoli sprout solution on the skin of a group of patients to see if the compound is effective in the context of solar simulated light. Previous studies have shown that the extract is quite safe for both topical and oral administration.

If the research proves to be successful, Dickinson believes this could lead to even more applications for sulforaphane. “Sulforaphane is the kind of compound that has so many incredible theoretical applications if the dosage is measured properly. We already know that it is very effective in blocking sunburns, and we have seen cases where it can induce protective enzymes in the skin.”