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Keywords:

  • Anticancer;
  • Cancer;
  • Food;
  • Nutrition;
  • Phytosterols

Abstract

Phytochemicals have been proposed to offer protection against a variety of chronic ailments including cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. As for cancer protection, it has been estimated that diets rich in phytochemicals can significantly reduce cancer risk by as much as 20%. Phytosterols are specific phytochemicals that resemble cholesterol in structure but are found exclusively in plants. Phytosterols are absorbed from the diet in small but significant amounts. Epidemiological data suggest that the phytosterol content of the diet is associated with a reduction in common cancers including cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate. The means by which dietary phytosterols may be achieving these effects is becoming clearer from molecular studies with tumorigenic research models. Phytosterols affect host systems potentially enabling more robust antitumor responses, including the boosting of immune recognition of cancer, influencing hormonal dependent growth of endocrine tumors, and altering sterol biosynthesis. In addition, phytosterols have effects that directly inhibit tumor growth, including the slowing of cell cycle progression, the induction of apoptosis, and the inhibition of tumor metastasis. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the anticancer effects of phytosterols.