And with additional trials, applications may not be far off, Talalay says.
"We are not very distant from human applications, and there won't be a huge delay," he notes. But, he adds, "It's hard to predict what form it will take."
Some, like Dr. Clark Otley, chairman of the Division of Dermatologic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., predict broccoli extract may one day be added to creams that are applied either before or after sun exposure.
All experts caution, however, that smearing broccoli on your skin is no substitute for good old sunscreen — nor is heaping your plate with this veggie at dinnertime.
"I would caution readers not to conclude that eating excessive broccoli takes the place of good sun protection programs," Leffell says.
"Apparently, our study might suggest to a few individuals that if they cover their skin with some sort of broccoli extract, they will be protected against the damage of the UV rays of the sun," Talalay says.
"This is absolutely not true."
But while the benefits of broccoli extract are still under study, doctors emphasize that playing in the sun does not always have to lead to the redness and inflammation of sun damage.
Otley encourages the liberal application of sunscreen to areas, including the face, ears, neck, back of the arms and hands. He recommends an SPF of 30 or higher, saying it should be applied as directed.
"Oftentimes, people do not apply it as thickly as recommended," he says.
But he adds that sunscreens are only part of the solution. Otley says avoiding sun exposure when the sun's rays are most potent — between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. — and advocates protective clothing, including long-sleeve shirts and pants, sunglasses, and a broad-brimmed hat.
Otley encourages people to examine their skin once a month. If they note a suspicious mole, he advises them to have it checked by either their primary care doctor or a dermatologist.
Otley also says that "Once one has skin cancer, there is a 50 percent chance of developing another within five years; therefore, in those individuals, an annual skin exam is reasonable."
And for those who want to avoid the outdoors altogether, he offers an alternative way to get the sunshine nutrient vitamin D — through dietary supplements.