Introduction: Phytic acid or IP6 has been extensively studied in animals and is being promoted as an anti-cancer agent in health food stores. It is naturally found in legumes, wheat bran, and soy foods. It is believed to be the active ingredient that gives these substances their cancer fighting abilities. Proposed mechanisms of action include gene alteration, enhanced immunity, and anti-oxidant properties.
Methods: A Medline search from 1966 to May 2002 using the keywords phytic acid and cancer, and limiting the search to the subheadings of therapeutic uses, prevention, and adverse effects revealed 28 studies. These studies were included in the review.
Results: A great majority of the studies were done in animals and showed that phytic acid had anti-neoplastic properties in breast, colon, liver, leukemia, prostate, sarcomas, and skin cancer. There were no human studies. Side effects included chelation of multivalent cations, and an increase in bladder and renal papillomas. This increase in papilloma formation only occurred with the sodium salt of phytic acid. It did not occur with either the potassium or magnesium salts.
Conclusions: There is a large body of animal evidence to show that phytic acid may have a role in both the prevention and treatment of many forms of cancer. There is clearly enough evidence to justify the initiation of Phase I and Phase II clinical trials in humans.