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Critical Reviews™ in Oncogenesis
SJR: 0.631 SNIP: 0.503 CiteScore™: 2

ISSN Print: 0893-9675
ISSN Online: 2162-6448

Critical Reviews™ in Oncogenesis

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevOncog.v8.i1.30
pages 47-69

Dietary Flavonoid and Cancer Prevention: Evidence and Potential Mechanism

Shiu-Ming Kuo
Nutrition Program, Department of Physical Therapy, Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, State University of New York at Buffalo


Dietary flavonoids represent a family of polyphenol compounds found in common food items derived from plants. Depending on structural features, flavonoids can be further subdivided into flavones, flavonols, isoflavones, flavanes, and flavanols. The biological activities of flavonoids are structure dependent and epidemiological studies support their role in human cancer prevention. Several flavonoids inhibit cancer development in animal models of chemical and UV carcinogenesis. However, at high dose some flavonoids themselves may also increase cancer incidence. Although flavonoids have been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth in vitro, the ability of flavonoids to limit cancer progression is limited in animal studies. A potential application is the possible synergisticaction of flavonoids with chemotherapy agents. Molecularly, flavonoids have antioxidant properties and can further enhance the antioxidant protein activities in cells and in animals. Isoflavones and some other flavonoids have weak affinity for the estrogen receptor. Neonatal exposure of animals to isoflavonoids affects the development of reproductive organs, an observation that opens the possibility of using isoflavonoids in the prevention of cancers of the reproductive system. Some growth-inhibiting flavonoids also bind to the low-affinity type II estrogen binding sites, but the biochemical identity of type II sites is unknown.

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