Nutrition and dietary carcinogens

Carcinogenesis. 2000 Mar;21(3):387-95. doi: 10.1093/carcin/21.3.387.


Three major factors for human carcinogenesis are (i) cigarette smoking, (ii) infection and inflammation and (iii) nutrition and dietary factors. Nutrition and dietary factors include two categories, namely genotoxic agents and constituents including tumor promotion-associated phenomena. This article first describes the genotoxic agents as microcomponents. These are mutagens/carcinogens in cooked food, fungal products, plant and mushroom substance, and nitrite-related materials, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and oxidative agents. Emphasis has been given to heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to which humans are continuously exposed in an ordinary lifestyle. HCAs in food are mainly produced from creatin(in)e, sugar and from amino acids in meat (upon heating). They are imidazoquinoline and imidazoquinoxaline derivatives and phenylimidazopyridine. HCAs are pluripotent in producing cancers in various organs including breast, colon and prostate. Discussion is also given to plant flavonoids which are mutagenic but not carcinogenic. As a macrocomponent, overintake of total calories, fat and sodium chloride is discussed from the viewpoint of the increase of genetic alterations in tissues and of tumor promotion-associated issues. Studies of nutrition and dietary condition will eventually lead us to cancer prevention, namely delay of onset of cancer to the late phase of human life, which is called 'natural-end cancer' (Tenju-gann).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amines / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Rats


  • Amines
  • Carcinogens