Cruciferous vegetables differ from other classes of vegetables in that they are rich sources of sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates (see Cruciferous Vegetables). Because epidemiological studies provide some evidence that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables are associated with lower risk of several types of cancer, scientists are interested in the potential cancer-preventive activities of compounds derived from glucosinolates (1). Among these compounds is indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound derived from the enzymatic hydrolysis (breakdown) of an indole glucosinolate, commonly known as glucobrassicin (2).


* Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is derived from the hydrolysis (breakdown) of glucobrassicin, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables.

* In the acidic environment of the stomach, I3C molecules can combine with each other to form a number of biologically active acid condensation products, such as 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM).

* I3C has been found to inhibit the development of cancer in animals when given before or at the same time as a carcinogen. However, in some cases, I3C enhanced the development of cancer in animals when administered after a carcinogen.

* The contradictory results of animal studies have led some experts to caution against the widespread use of I3C and DIM supplements for cancer prevention in humans until their potential risks and benefits are better understood.

* Although I3C and DIM supplementation have been found to alter urinary estrogen metabolite profiles in women, the effects of I3C and DIM on breast cancer risk are not known.

* Small preliminary trials in humans suggest that I3C supplementation may be beneficial in treating conditions related to human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, such as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) but randomized controlled trials are needed.

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