Antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activity of tea polyphenols

Mutat Res. 1999 Jan;436(1):69-97. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5742(98)00019-2.


Tea is the most popular beverage, consumed by over two thirds of the world's population. Tea is processed differently in different parts of the world to give green (20%), black (78%) or oolong tea (2%). Green tea is consumed mostly in Japan and China. The antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activities of green tea are extensively examined. The chemical components of green and black tea are polyphenols, which include EC, ECG, EGC, EGCG and TFs. This article reviews the epidemiological and experimental studies on the antimutagenicity and anticarcinogenicity of tea extracts and tea polyphenols. In Japan, an epidemiological study showed an inverse relationship between habitual green tea drinking and the standardized mortality rates for cancer. Some cohort studies on Chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) women teachers also showed that their mortality ratio including deaths caused by malignant neoplasms were surprisingly low. The antimutagenic activity against various mutagens of tea extracts and polyphenols including ECG and EGCG has been demonstrated in microbial systems (Salmonella typhimurium and Escherichia coli), mammalian cell systems and in vivo animal tests. The anticarcinogenic activity of tea phenols has been shown in experimental animals such as rats and mice, in transplantable tumors, carcinogen-induced tumors in digestive organs, mammary glands, hepatocarcinomas, lung cancers, skin tumors, leukemia, tumor promotion and metastasis. The mechanisms of antimutagenesis and anticarcinogenesis of tea polyphenols suggest that the inhibition of tumors may be due to both extracellular and intracellular mechanisms including the modulation of metabolism, blocking or suppression, modulation of DNA replication and repair effects, promotion, inhibition of invasion and metastasis, and induction of novel mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antimutagenic Agents / chemistry
  • Antimutagenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carcinogenicity Tests
  • Enterobacteriaceae / genetics
  • Female
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Phenols / chemistry
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polymers / pharmacology*
  • Polyphenols
  • Tea*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antimutagenic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polymers
  • Polyphenols
  • Tea