The Role of Polyphenol (Flavonoids) Compounds in the Treatment of Cancer Cells

Nutr Cancer. 2020;72(3):386-397. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2019.1637006. Epub 2019 Jul 9.


Cancer remains a second leading cause of deaths and major public health problem. It occurs due to extensive DNA damage caused by ultraviolet radiations, ionizing radiations, environmental agents, therapeutic agents, etc. Among all cancers, the most frequently diagnosed cancers are lung (12.7%), breast (10.9%), colorectal (9.7%), and gastric cancer (7.81%). Natural compounds are most favorable against cancer on the count of their anti-cancerous ability, easy to avail and efficient. Among natural compounds, polyphenols (flavonoids, catechin, hesperetin, flavones, quercetin, phenolic acids, ellagic acid, lignans, stilbenes, etc.) represent a large and diverse group used in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Natural flavonoids are derived from different plant sources and from various medicinal plants including Petroselinum crispum, Apium graveolens, Flemingia vestita, Phyllanthus emblica, etc. Natural flavonoids possess antioxidant, anti-inflammation, as well as anti-cancerous activities through multiple pathways, they induce apoptosis in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers, lower the nucleoside diphosphate kinase-B activity in lung, bladder and colon cancers, inhibit cell-proliferation and cell cycle arrest by suppressing the NF-kB pathway in various cancers, etc. The current review summarized the anticancer activities of natural polyphenols and their mechanisms of action.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Plants, Edible / chemistry*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry*
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols / therapeutic use
  • Quercetin / pharmacology
  • Tea / chemistry


  • Anthocyanins
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Flavonoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Tea
  • Quercetin
  • delphinidin