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Free Radic Biol Med. 1988;5(2):95-111.

A role for dietary lipids and antioxidants in the activation of carcinogens.

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Division of Comparative Medicine, Clinical Research Centre, Harrow, Middlesex, U.K.


The ways in which dietary polyunsaturated fats and antioxidants affect the balance between activation and detoxification of environmental precarcinogens is discussed, with particular reference to the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon benzo(a)pyrene. The structure and composition of membranes and their susceptibility to peroxidation is dependent on the polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content of the cell and its antioxidant status, both of which are determined to a large degree by dietary intake of these compounds. An increase in the PUFA content of membranes stimulates the oxidation of precarcinogens to reactive intermediates by affecting the configuration and induction of membrane-bound enzymes (e.g., the mixed-function oxidase system and epoxide hydratase); providing increased availability of substrates (hydroperoxides) for peroxidases that cooxidise carcinogens (e.g., prostaglandin synthetase and P-450 peroxidase); and increasing the likelihood of direct activation reactions between peroxyl radicals and precarcinogens. Antioxidants, on the other hand, protect against lipid peroxidation, scavenge oxygen-derived free radicals and reactive carcinogenic species. In addition some synthetic antioxidants exert specific effects on enzymes, which results in increased detoxification and reduced rates of activation. The balance between dietary polyunsaturated fats, antioxidants and the initiation of carcinogenesis is discussed in relation to animal models of chemical carcinogenesis and the epidemiology of human cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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