Does tea prevent cancer? Evidence from laboratory and human intervention studies
Author: Joshua D Lambert
Tea (Camellia sinensis) is a widely consumed beverage and has been extensively studied for its cancer-preventive activity. Both the polyphenolic constituents as well as the caffeine in tea have been implicated as potential cancer-preventive compounds; the relative importance seems to depend on the cancer type. Green tea and the green tea catechin have been shown to inhibit tumorigenesis at a number of organ sites and to be effective when administered either during the initiation or postinitiation phases of carcinogenesis. Black tea, although not as well studied as green tea, has also shown cancer-preventive effects in laboratory models. A number of potential mechanisms have been proposed to account for the cancer-preventive effects of tea, including modulation of phase II metabolism, alterations in redox environment, inhibition of growth factor signaling, and others. In addition to the laboratory studies, there is a growing body of human intervention studies suggesting that tea can slow cancer progression and modify biomarkers relevant to carcinogenesis. Although available data are promising, many questions remain with regard to the dose-response relations of tea constituents in various models, the primary mechanisms of action, and the potential for combination chemoprevention strategies that involve tea as well as other dietary or pharmaceutical agents. The present review examines the available data from laboratory animal and human intervention studies on tea and cancer prevention. These data were evaluated, and areas for further research are identified.