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Mutat Res. 1994 May 1;307(1):395-410.

Antimutagens as cancer chemopreventive agents in the diet.

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Cancer Research Laboratory, University of Auckland Medical School, New Zealand.


It has been suggested that the use of antimutagens and anticarcinogens in everyday life will be the most effective procedure for preventing human cancer and genetic disease. There are several ways in which mutagenesis can be reduced or prevented. Chemicals which act to interfere with DNA repair or with mutagen metabolism can be effective antimutagens: however such compounds may also increase the probability of mutations by different chemicals or at different sites. In contrast, mutagen scavengers may be less prone to increase mutations by other chemicals. Selected examples illustrate that antimutagenic effects are often specific to certain classes of mutagen and/or certain test systems. Thus, if antimutagens are to have any impact on human disease, it is essential that they are specifically directed against the most common mutagens in daily life. On our current understanding, these are quite diverse in nature, so that combinations of antimutagens will probably be necessary. Two groups of mutagen scavengers (porphyrins and some types of dietary fibre) show some selectivity for large planar and hydrophobic types of carcinogen, which appear to be common in a normal Western diet. Increasing consumption of vitamins C and E, either through increased consumption of fruit and vegetables or through dietary supplementation might reduce formation of N-nitroso compounds, another common class of mutagens. Similarly, carotenoids and related compounds, already present at high quantities in some fruits and vegetables, have excellent antioxidant properties and should be able to counteract effects of endogenous metabolism and other events which generate oxidising species and free radicals. Still other types of antimutagen might be necessary to act against smaller non-planar carcinogens, but there is some question as to the importance of this type of carcinogen in a normal Western diet. It may be necessary to adjust the selection of antimutagens for different population groups, or as our understanding of mutagens in the diet develops further. Current assays for cancer chemoprevention in animals are unlikely to detect some important types of antimutagens, such as mutagen scavengers. A structured testing strategy is suggested, progressing from in vitro to in vivo antimutagenicity tests against a selected range of mutagens. Optimal use of antimutagens might be as a dietary supplement, additional to practical advice on increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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