Beneficial and adverse effects of chemopreventive agents

Mutat Res. Feb-Mar 2003;523-524:265-78. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(02)00342-1.


The beneficial and adverse effects of some chemopreventive agents, such as Vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, indole-3-carbinol, capsaicin, garlic, and aloe are reviewed. Two large randomized trials with a lung cancer endpoint, the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene (ATBC) Prevention Study and the Beta-Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET), suggested that antioxidants might be harmful in smokers. However, the results of the Linxian study and of the ATBC or the CARET studies were significantly different in this respect, and therefore, the relationship between antioxidant and carcinogenesis remains open to debate. Indole-3-carbinol has cancer promoting activities in the colon, thyroid, pancreas, and liver, whereas capsaicin alters the metabolism of chemical carcinogens and may promote carcinogenesis at high doses. Organosulfur compounds and selenium from garlic have no or a little enhancing effect on cancer promotion stage. Information upon chemopreventive mechanisms that inhibit carcinogenesis is imperfect, although the causes and natures of certain human cancers are known. Therefore, definitive preventive guidelines should be carefully offered for various types of tumors, which properly consider ethnic variations, and the efficacies and the safety of chemopreventive agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Capsaicin / adverse effects
  • Capsaicin / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA Damage
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Irritants / adverse effects
  • Irritants / therapeutic use
  • Vegetables
  • Vitamins / adverse effects
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Irritants
  • Vitamins
  • Capsaicin