India is a developing country with one of the most diverse populations and diets in the world. Cancer rates in India are lower than those seen in Western countries, but are rising with increasing migration of rural population to the cities, increase in life expectancy and changes in lifestyles. In India, rates for oral and oesophageal cancers are some of the highest in the world. In contrast, the rates for colorectal, prostate, and lung cancers are one of the lowest. Studies of Indian immigrants in Western societies indicate that rates of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease and diabetes, increase dramatically after a generation in the adopted country. Change of diet is among the factors that may be responsible for the changing disease rates. Diet in India encompasses diversity unknown to most other countries, with many dietary patterns emanating from cultural and religious teachings that have existed for thousands of years. Very little is known, however, about the role of the Indian diet in causation of cancer or its role, if any, in prevention of cancer, although more attention is being focused on certain aspects of the Indian diet, such as vegetarianism, spices, and food additives. Of particular interest for cancer prevention is the role of turmeric (curcumin), an ingredient in common Indian curry spice. Researchers also have investigated cumin, chilies, kalakhar, Amrita Bindu, and various plant seeds for their apparent cancer preventive properties. Few prospective studies, however, have been conducted to investigate the role of Indian diet and its various components in prevention of cancer. From a public health perspective, there is an increasing need to develop cancer prevention programs responsive to the unique diets and cultural practices of the people of India.