Background: Tea from the Camellia sinensis species of the Theaceae family is one of the most ancient and, next to water, the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Since tea contains several polyphenols and since several other naturally occurring dietary polyphenols have shown antimutagenic effects in bacteria and anticarcinogenic effects in animal bioassay systems, we studied whether polyphenols extracted from Chinese green tea (GTP) also possess antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects.
Results: GTP and its constituent epicatechin derivatives were found to interact with hepatic cytochrome P450 (P450) and inhibited the P450-dependent mixed-function oxidase enzymes in skin and liver. GTP and its epicatechin derivatives exhibited antimutagenic effects in several test systems. GTP showed substantial anti-skin-tumor-initiating and anti-skin-tumor-promoting activities when assessed in murine skin tumorigenesis bioassay systems. In these model systems polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzo[a]pyrene (BP), 3-methyl-cholanthrene, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene, and (+)-7 beta,8 alpha-dihydroxy-9 alpha,10 alpha-epoxy-7,8,9,10- tetrahydrobenzo[a]pyrene (an ultimate carcinogenic metabolite of BP) were used as model skin carcinogens. The feeding of GTP in drinking water to SKH-1 hairless mice also afforded significant protection against ultraviolet-B-radiation-induced skin photocarcinogenesis.
Conclusions: These data suggest that tea components possess antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects, and that they could protect humans against the risk of cancer by environmental agents.