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Biofactors. 2000;12(1-4):45-51.

Role of diet modification in cancer prevention.

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Trace Element-Institute for UNESCO, Lyon, France.


Carcinogenesis encompasses a prolonged accumulation of injuries at several different biological levels and include both genetic and biochemical changes in the cells. At each of these levels, there are several possibilities of intervention in order to prevent, slow down or even halt the gradual march of healthy cells towards malignancy. Diet modification is one such possibility. A number of natural foodstuffs, especially fruits and vegetables contain substantial quantities of molecules that have chemopreventive potential against cancer development. Such compounds include vitamins, trace elements and a variety of other molecules with antioxidant properties. Carotenoids, flavanoid polyphenols, isoflavones, catechins, and several other components that found in cruciferous vegetables are molecules that are known to protect against the deleterious effect of reactive oxygen species. A number of epidemiological and experimental studies have shown that vitamin C and E, Beta-carotene and the essential trace element selenium can reduce the risk of cancer. Consistent observations during the last few decades that cancer risk is reduced by a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and green tea have encouraged research to identify several plant components especially phytochemicals that protect against DNA damage. Many of these substances block specific carcinogen pathways. Dietary supplements are part of an overall health program, along with a high intake of fruits and vegetables that help to combat damage to cells, which in turn may initiate cancer development. This paper will review current knowledge concerning diet modification and cancer prevention with special reference to minerals and trace elements.

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