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Oral Oncol. 1998 Jan;34(1):24-9.

Mechanisms of cancer inhibition by anti-oxidant nutrients.

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Department of Oral Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The cancer inhibitory properties of anti-oxidant micronutrients have been well established in experimental animal models and cell culture studies. Human studies have also tended to indicate an inhibition of various forms of cancer and the regression of some precancerous lesions. The biological mechanisms for cancer inhibition and regression are now gradually becoming understood, and the anti-oxidant nutrients appear to act through a number of pathways common to most of the agents studied. These various micronutrients appear to act through a complex group of "common pathways" of anticancer activity based upon three major mechanisms: (1) tumour inhibition by immune cytokines; (2) stimulation of cancer suppressor genes, such as "wild type" p53, and diminished expression or dysregulation of oncogenes such as mutant p53 and H-ras; (3) inhibition of tumour angiogenesis through the inhibition of angiogenesis-stimulating factors such as TGF alpha. Retinoid action differs, in some respects, from other micronutrient anticancer mechanisms and appears to relate to its stimulation of cellular differentiation and resultant apoptosis of neoplastic cells. Combinations of anti-oxidant nutrients have been shown to be synergistic in their anticancer activity, probably due to their optimal anticancer activity at different oxygen potentials. Selectivity in the action on cancer cells, as opposed to normal cells, is a major feature of the anti-oxidant micronutrients.

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