Cancer chemoprevention

Many human cancers are preventable, because their causes have been identified in the human environment. Wattenberg first suggested that regular consumption of certain constituents of fruits and vegetables might offer protection from cancer. He coined the term 'cancer chemoprevention', which can be defined as 'the use of specific diets, or natural or synthetic chemicals, to reverse, suppress, or prevent carcinogenic progression to invasive cancer'.

Minimization of exposure towards carcinogens in the environment (primary prevention) is an effective strategy in cancer prevention. However, most environmental factors that initiate cancer remain to be identified and, once identified, the avoidance of such factors may necessitate difficult lifestyle changes.

Epidemiological data suggesting that cancer is preventable by intervention with chemicals are based on:

♦ Time trends in cancer incidence and mortality

♦ Geographic variations and effect of migration

♦ Identification of specific causative factors

♦ Lack of simple patterns of genetic inheritance for the majority of human cancers

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