Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention

Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):281-90. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2008.05.020. Epub 2008 Jun 20.


Anthocyanins are the most abundant flavonoid constituents of fruits and vegetables. The conjugated bonds in their structures, which absorb light at about 500 nm, are the basis for the bright red, blue and purple colors of fruits and vegetables, as well as the autumn foliage of deciduous trees. The daily intake of anthocyanins in residents of the United States is estimated to be about 200 mg or about 9-fold higher than that of other dietary flavonoids. In this review, we summarize the latest developments on the anti-carcinogenic activities of anthocyanins and anthocyanin-rich extracts in cell culture models and in animal model tumor systems, and discuss their molecular mechanisms of action. We also suggest reasons for the apparent lack of correlation between the effectiveness of anthocyanins in laboratory model systems and in humans as evidenced by epidemiological studies. Future studies aimed at enhancing the absorption of anthocyanins and/or their metabolites are likely to be necessary for their ultimate use for chemoprevention of human cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anthocyanins / chemistry
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism
  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Anthocyanins
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents