The Impact of Natural Dietary Compounds and Food-Borne Mycotoxins on DNA Methylation and Cancer

Cells. 2020 Aug 31;9(9):2004. doi: 10.3390/cells9092004.


Cancer initiation and progression is an accumulation of genetic and epigenetic modifications. DNA methylation is a common epigenetic modification that regulates gene expression, and aberrant DNA methylation patterns are considered a hallmark of cancer. The human diet is a source of micronutrients, bioactive molecules, and mycotoxins that have the ability to alter DNA methylation patterns and are thus a contributing factor for both the prevention and onset of cancer. Micronutrients such as betaine, choline, folate, and methionine serve as cofactors or methyl donors for one-carbon metabolism and other DNA methylation reactions. Dietary bioactive compounds such as curcumin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, genistein, quercetin, resveratrol, and sulforaphane reactivate essential tumor suppressor genes by reversing aberrant DNA methylation patterns, and therefore, they have shown potential against various cancers. In contrast, fungi-contaminated agricultural foods are a source of potent mycotoxins that induce carcinogenesis. In this review, we summarize the existing literature on dietary micronutrients, bioactive compounds, and food-borne mycotoxins that affect DNA methylation patterns and identify their potential in the onset and treatment of cancer.

Keywords: DNA methylation; bioactive dietary compounds; cancer; epigenetics; micronutrients; mycotoxins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation / genetics*
  • Diet / methods*
  • Epigenomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mycotoxins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*


  • Mycotoxins