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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Antioxidants--carcinogenic and chemopreventive properties.

Synthetic and naturally occurring antioxidants have a wide variety of biological actions in rodents in addition to their primary antioxidant activity. Some of the included biological effects are of direct interest in relation to studies of carcinogenicity and/or modulation of carcinogenesis. Since the synthetic antioxidant BHA was first found to exert carcinogenic potential in rat and hamster forestomach epithelium, many other synthetic and naturally occurring antioxidants have been examined for their ability to induce proliferative activity in the alimentary canal. These studies have revealed that caffeic acid and sesamol are also tumorigenic for rat forestomach epithelium, whereas catechol and p-methylcatechol induce neoplasia in rat glandular stomach epithelium. Although the proliferative response is very rapid, with inflammation and ulceration, it takes a very long time before carcinomas develop. The proliferative lesions in the forestomach induced by BHA or caffeic acid are largely reversible, in contrast to those induced by genotoxic carcinogens, which generally persist and develop into cancer. Therefore, chronic irritation is considered to be responsible for the induction of stomach cancer by antioxidants. Butylated hydroxyanisole can undergo oxidative metabolism in vitro, and some of the metabolites formed have the potential for binding to proteins. Neither BHA nor its metabolites binds to DNA in vivo, but protein binding in the forestomach was greater than 10 times higher than that in the glandular stomach. It is thus conceivable that BHA is oxidatively metabolized in the forestomach epithelium (possibly entering into redox cycling), and reactive metabolites including semiquinone radicals or active oxygen species are responsible for the carcinogenesis by a mechanism involving binding to macromolecules. Many antioxidants have been shown to modify carcinogenesis, and as a rule, they inhibit the initiation stage by reducing the interaction between carcinogen and DNA. However, both promotion and inhibition have been reported for second-stage carcinogenesis, depending on the organ site, species of animal, or initiating carcinogen. They can also block reaction of amine and nitrite to form nitrosamines or reduce TPA promotion of skin carcinogenesis. Generally high doses of antioxidants are required for carcinoma induction or modification of chemical carcinogenesis. The significance of the reported tumorigenicity and strong promoting activity of antioxidants for forestomach epithelium of animals to the development of human cancer appears limited mainly because humans do not have a forestomach. The carcinogenic and strong promoting activities of catechol and its structurally related compounds on rat glandular stomach epithelium are of greater concern because this tissue is directly analogous to human gastric epithelium.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)[1]


  1. Antioxidants--carcinogenic and chemopreventive properties. Ito, N., Hirose, M. Adv. Cancer Res. (1989) [Pubmed]
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