J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1993:17F:270-7. doi: 10.1002/jcb.240531040.


The most commonly used chemopreventive agents in the prevention of oral leukoplakia, head and neck cancer, and lung cancer are beta-carotene, vitamin A, and other retinoids. One of the few chemopreventive agents not in this group and presently being used in a clinical trial is N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC). NAC, an antioxidant, is used in EUROSCAN, a European Organization of Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) chemoprevention study in curatively treated patients with oral, laryngeal, or lung cancer. The rationale for choosing NAC is based on a variety of experimental data showing its ability to exert protective effects, including extracellular inhibition of mutagenic agents from exogenous and endogenous sources, inhibition of genotoxicity of reactive oxygen species, modulation of metabolism coordinated with blocking of reactive metabolites, protection of DNA and nuclear enzymes, and prevention of the formation of carcinogen-DNA adducts. NAC has also demonstrated an effect on mutagen-induced chromosomal sensitivity assays, and on anticarcinogenicity in experimental animal models. In addition, preliminary data from EUROSCAN show good compliance in treated patients and a low frequency of side effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Lung Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Mouth Neoplasms / prevention & control


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Acetylcysteine