Plants consumed by humans contain thousands of phenolic compounds. The effects of dietary polyphenols are of great current interest due to their antioxidative and possible anticarcinogenic activities. A popular belief is that dietary polyphenols are anticarcinogens because they are antioxidants, but direct evidence for this supposition is lacking. This chapter reviews the inhibition of tumorigenesis by phenolic acids and derivatives, tea and catechins, isoflavones and soy preparations, quercetin and other flavonoids, resveratrol, and lignans as well as the mechanisms involved based on studies in vivo and in vitro. Polyphenols may inhibit carcinogenesis by affecting the molecular events in the initiation, promotion, and progression stages. Isoflavones and lignans may influence tumor formation by affecting estrogen-related activities. The bioavailability of the dietary polyphenols is discussed extensively, because the tissue levels of the effective compounds determine the biological activity. Understanding the bioavailability and blood and tissue levels of polyphenols is also important in extrapolating results from studies in cell lines to animal models and humans. Epidemiological studies concerning polyphenol consumption and human cancer risk suggest the protective effects of certain food items and polyphenols, but more studies are needed for clear-cut conclusions. Perspectives on the application of dietary polyphenols for the prevention of human cancer and possible concerns on the consumption of excessive amounts of polyphenols are discussed.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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