Intermittent Fasting against Cancer Development and Progression: Highlighting Potential Anticancer Molecular Mechanisms

Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2023;23(17):1889-1909. doi: 10.2174/1871520623666230816090229.


Background: Intermittent fasting (IF) diets have been popular since the last few decades because of their provable clinical efficiency on weight control of the subjects. These diet types are generally safe, resulting in health promoting effects against several human diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, neurogenerative disorders and cancer.

Objective: To review whether IF can act against cancer development and progression, highlighting potential anticancer molecular mechanisms in clinical studies.

Methods: Applied summarization of the available clinical studies investigating the effectiveness of IF against cancer development and progression and cancer-induced indicators. Scientific databases, e.g., PubMed, and Scopus, were comprehensively searched using relative words to identify in vivo and in vitro data, as well as clinical studies.

Results: IF seems to exert health-promoting effects in cancer patients through induction of autophagy, which enhances the in vivo suppression of tumor development, by chemotherapy. IF provokes tumors to chemotherapy and defends the normal cells from its adverse side effects, increasing the immune response. In addition, it enhances the cytotoxic CD8(+) tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and the bone marrow lymphoid progenitor cells, delaying the cancer progression. IF reduces oxidative stress via repression of translation and induces cellular apoptosis. Fasting exerts anti-aging properties modulating the secretion of IGF-1, IGFBP-1, glucose, and insulin while, at the same time, it integrates cell adaptive responses and activates cell signaling pathways which stimulates antioxidant defenses, DNA repairment, control of protein quality, mitochondrial synthesis while decreasing inflammation.

Conclusion: IF appears to exert health promoting effects against cancer development and progression, suppressing several kinds of cancer. There are well-recognized and not well-recognized molecular processes accentuating its anticancer outcomes; however, well-designed clinical trials and further molecular studies are strongly recommended.

Keywords: Intermittent fasting; autophagy; cancer; cancer risk; chemotherapy; inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Diet
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents