Cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli, may prevent cancer through anticarcinogenic compounds. For example, broccoli contains isothiocyanates that induce carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes. Glutathione transferase enzymes conjugate isothiocyanates, leading to excretion. We hypothesized that broccoli consumption in combination with the glutathione transferase M1 (GSTM1) null genotype would be associated with a lower prevalence of colorectal adenomas because of higher isothiocyanate levels. We used a case-control study of mainly asymptomatic subjects aged 50-74 years who underwent a screening sigmoidoscopy at either of two Southern California Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers during 1991-1993. Cases (n = 459) had a first-time diagnosis of histologically confirmed adenomas detected by flexible sigmoidoscopy. Controls (n = 507) had no polyp detected. Subjects had a 45-min in-person interview for information on various risk factors and basic demographic data and completed a 126-item, semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Blood samples were used for GSTM1 genotyping. Subjects with the highest quartile of broccoli intake (an average of 3.7 servings per week) had an odds ratio of 0.47 (95% confidence interval, 0.30-0.73) for colorectal adenomas, compared with subjects who reportedly never ate broccoli. When stratified by GSTM1 genotype, a protective effect of broccoli was observed only among subjects with the GSTM1 null genotype (P for trend, 0.001; P for interaction, 0.01). The observed broccoli-GSTM1 interaction is compatible with an isothiocyanate mechanism.

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