BRITISH AND Danish scientists have identified a compound in carrots that may help fight cancer, reports The Guardian.

The scientists based at the University of Newcastle and at the University of Southern Denmark found the natural toxin called falcarinol reduced the incidence of cancer in rats by a third.

The findings published on Wed (Feb 9) in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry could lead to the development of new anti-cancer drugs, reports the paper.

Carrots use the toxin falcarinol as a method of self protection against fungal diseases such as liquorice rot, a blight that grows on the roots during storage.

The scientists conducted the experiment using 24 rats, all with pre-cancerous tumours, then divided them into three groups and fed them a range of diets for 18 weeks.

The group that were given carrots with their regular diet and the group that was given an equivalent dose of falcarinol were one-third less likely to develop full-scale tumours than the control group.

“We already know that carrots are good for us and can reduce the risk of cancer but until now we have not known what element of the vegetable has these properties,” said Kirsten Brandt of Newcastle University.

Mr Brandt said the next step will be to find out just how much falcarinol is needed to prevent the development of cancer and if certain varieties of carrot are better than others.

The paper reports that for an individual to suffer the harmful effects of the toxin a carrot lover would have to consume 400kg of the vegetable in one sitting.