Hormesis and synergy: pathways and mechanisms of quercetin in cancer prevention and management

Nutr Rev. 2010 Jul;68(7):418-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00301.x.


Quercetin is a unique dietary polyphenol because it can exert biphasic dose-responses on cells depending on its concentration. Cancer preventative effects of quercetin are observed at concentrations of approximately 1-40 microM and are likely mediated by quercetin's antioxidant properties. Pro-oxidant effects are present at cellular concentrations of 40-100 microM. However, at higher concentrations, many novel pathways in addition to ROS contribute to its effects. The potent bioactivity of quercetin has led to vigorous study of this compound and revealed numerous pathways that could interact synergistically to prevent or treat cancer. The effect of intake and concentration on emerging pathways and how they may interact are discussed in this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diet therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Oxidants / adverse effects
  • Oxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Oxidants / pharmacology
  • Oxidants / therapeutic use
  • Quercetin / adverse effects
  • Quercetin / pharmacokinetics
  • Quercetin / pharmacology*
  • Quercetin / therapeutic use*


  • Antioxidants
  • Oxidants
  • Quercetin