Chemoprevention of cancer

CA Cancer J Clin. May-Jun 2004;54(3):150-80. doi: 10.3322/canjclin.54.3.150.


Cancer chemoprevention is defined as the use of natural, synthetic, or biologic chemical agents to reverse, suppress, or prevent carcinogenic progression to invasive cancer. The success of several recent clinical trials in preventing cancer in high-risk populations suggests that chemoprevention is a rational and appealing strategy. This review will highlight current clinical research in chemoprevention, the biologic effects of chemopreventive agents on epithelial carcinogenesis, and the usefulness of intermediate biomarkers as markers of premalignancy. Selected chemoprevention trials are discussed with a focus on strategies of trial design and clinical outcome. Future directions in the field of chemoprevention will be proposed that are based on recently acquired mechanistic insight into carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Chemoprevention
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor