Phytosterols in Cancer: From Molecular Mechanisms to Preventive and Therapeutic Potentials

Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(37):6735-6749. doi: 10.2174/0929867325666180607093111.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. Compelling evidence supports the hypothesis that the manipulation of dietary components, including plant compounds termed as phytochemicals, demonstrates certain important health benefits in humans, including those in cancer. In fact, beyond their well-known cardiovascular applications, phytosterols may also possess anticancer properties, as has been demonstrated by several studies. Although the mechanism of action by which phytosterols (and derivatives) may prevent cancer development is still under investigation, data from multiple experimental studies support the hypothesis that they may modulate proliferation and apoptosis of tumor cells. Phytosterols are generally considered safe for human consumption and may also be added to a broad spectrum of food matrices; further, they could be used in primary and secondary prevention. However, few interventional studies have evaluated the relationship between the efficacy of different types and forms of phytosterols in cancer prevention. In this context, the purpose of this review was to revisit and update the current knowledge on the molecular mechanisms involved in the anticancer action of phytosterols and their potential in cancer prevention or treatment.

Keywords: Edible vegetables; angiogenesis; antitumor therapies; apoptosis; metastasis; phytotherapy; proliferation; sitosterol..

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phytosterols / pharmacology*


  • Phytosterols