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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Dec 10;19(17):2157-96. doi: 10.1089/ars.2012.4662. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Nutritional countermeasures targeting reactive oxygen species in cancer: from mechanisms to biomarkers and clinical evidence.

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  • 11 Department of Biochemistry, Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu , Oulu, Finland .


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) exert various biological effects and contribute to signaling events during physiological and pathological processes. Enhanced levels of ROS are highly associated with different tumors, a Western lifestyle, and a nutritional regime. The supplementation of food with traditional antioxidants was shown to be protective against cancer in a number of studies both in vitro and in vivo. However, recent large-scale human trials in well-nourished populations did not confirm the beneficial role of antioxidants in cancer, whereas there is a well-established connection between longevity of several human populations and increased amount of antioxidants in their diets. Although our knowledge about ROS generators, ROS scavengers, and ROS signaling has improved, the knowledge about the direct link between nutrition, ROS levels, and cancer is limited. These limitations are partly due to lack of standardized reliable ROS measurement methods, easily usable biomarkers, knowledge of ROS action in cellular compartments, and individual genetic predispositions. The current review summarizes ROS formation due to nutrition with respect to macronutrients and antioxidant micronutrients in the context of cancer and discusses signaling mechanisms, used biomarkers, and its limitations along with large-scale human trials.

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