Reduction in colon cancer risk by consumption of kava or kava fractions in carcinogen-treated rats

Nutr Cancer. 2012 Aug;64(6):838-46. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.689917. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


Epidemiological studies suggest that kava reduces colon cancer risk. However, no experimental studies of the chemopreventive properties of kava toward colon cancer have been reported. Further, there are concerns regarding hepatotoxicity of kava. The goal of this study was to determine whether kava consumption reduces markers of colon cancer in an animal model and to study the safety of kava. An ethanolic extract and polar and nonpolar fractions of the kava extract were fed to rats for 12 days prior to, during, and after administration of dimethylhydrazine, a colon-specific carcinogen. After 14 wk, rats fed the nonpolar extract had a significant reduction in precancerous lesions [aberrant crypt (AC) foci (ACF)] as well as large (≥ 4 AC/ACF) sialomucin-only expressing foci, an indicator of greater tumorigenic potential, compared to the control group. Groups fed the ethanolic extract and polar kava fraction trended toward reductions in ACF and large sialomucin-only expressing foci. The combined kava groups had significantly fewer total AC, ACF, large ACF, and large sialomucin-only expressing foci compared to the control group. Histological examination found no hepatic lesions in animals consuming the kava diets, suggesting that kava is safe to consume. Our results support that kava may reduce colon cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 1,2-Dimethylhydrazine / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Colonic Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Kava*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology
  • Precancerous Conditions / prevention & control*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Carcinogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • 1,2-Dimethylhydrazine