Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality across the globe. Emerging evidence suggests that consumption of a well-balanced diet containing a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can prevent the development of, halt, or reverse cancer progression. Carica papaya L. (papaya) has a wide distribution throughout many countries. Although the fruits of C. papaya are primarily consumed as food, various parts of this tree, including the bark, fruits, latex, seeds, and roots, have been used in traditional medicine for health promotion and disease mitigation. While numerous individual studies have investigated anticancer efficacies of various products and constituents of C. papaya, an up-to-date, comprehensive, and critical evaluation of available research data covering its role in the prevention and intervention of various human malignancies has not been conducted according to our knowledge. The purpose of this review is to present a systematic, comprehensive, and critical analysis of the cancer-preventive potential of C. papaya extracts, fractions, and isolated phytochemicals with a special emphasis on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of action. Moreover, the bioavailability, pharmacokinetics, and safety profiles of individual phytochemicals of C. papaya, as well as current limitations, challenges, and future directions of research, have also been discussed.
Keywords: Carica papaya; Papaya; cancer prevention; intervention; molecular nutrition; phytochemicals.