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Cancer prevention by tea: animal studies, molecular mechanisms and human relevance

Nature Reviews Cancer volume 9, pages 429439 (2009) | Download Citation

Subjects

Abstract

Extracts of tea, especially green tea, and tea polyphenols have been shown to inhibit the formation and development of tumours at different organ sites in animal models. There is considerable evidence that tea polyphenols, in particular (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, inhibit enzyme activities and signal transduction pathways, resulting in the suppression of cell proliferation and enhancement of apoptosis, as well as the inhibition of cell invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis. Here, we review these biological activities and existing data relating tea consumption to human cancer risk in an attempt to understand the potential use of tea for cancer prevention.

Key points

  • Tea, made from the dried leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis, is the most popular beverage worldwide after water.

  • Tea and tea polyphenols have been shown to inhibit tumour formation and growth in different animal models for human cancer. The inhibition is associated with decreased cell proliferation, increased apoptosis and suppression of angiogenesis.

  • Tea polyphenols are antioxidants, but they can also generate reactive oxygen species. The major polyphenol from green tea, (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, has been shown to bind directly to several receptors and signalling molecules, and to inhibit the functions of key receptors, kinases, proteinases and other enzymes.

  • Epidemiological studies, however, have not yielded conclusive results on the cancer-preventive effect of tea consumption in humans, possibly owing to different confounding factors. Some human cancer prevention trials with green tea polyphenol preparations have shown promising results.

  • Well-designed epidemiological studies and intervention trials are needed to evaluate the cancer-preventive activities of tea and tea polyphenols in humans.

  • Many issues raised and the experience gained from studies on tea and cancer prevention may be applicable to studies on other dietary constituents.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants CA120915, CA122474 and CA133021.

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Affiliations

  1. Susan Lehman Cullman Laboratory of Cancer Research, Department of Chemical Biology, and Center for Cancer Prevention Research, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 164 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-8020, USA; and Cancer Institute of New Jersey, 195 Little Albany Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, USA.

    • Chung S. Yang
    • , Xin Wang
    • , Gang Lu
    •  & Sonia C. Picinich

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Correspondence to Chung S. Yang.

Glossary

Dietary recalls

A human dietary assessment procedure in which subjects are asked to recall their food consumptions over a certain time frame.

Polyphenon E

A standard green tea polyphenol preparation containing 65% (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate.

Atorvastatin

An inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl CoA reductase and a commonly used cholesterol-lowering drug with the trade name Lipitor.

Aflatoxin

A carcinogenic toxin produced by fungi that induces hepatic damage and leads to liver cancer.

IC50

The concentration of a drug giving a 50% inhibition of the activity of a target enzyme.

Lipid raft

A dynamic assembly of plasma membrane enriched in certain cholesterols, sphingolipids, saturated phospholipids and cell signalling proteins.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nrc2641

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