It is well documented that dietary factors play a crucial role in the aetiology of human cancer and strong efforts have been made to identify protective (antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic) substances in foods. Although numerous studies have been published, it is problematic to use these results for the development of nutritional strategies. The aim of this article is a critical discussion of the pitfalls and problems associated with the search for protective compounds. The main obstacles in regard to the extrapolation of the data to the human situation arise from: (i) the use of inadequate experimental in vitro models, which do not reflect protective mechanisms in man and therefore give misleading results; (ii) the use of genotoxins and carcinogens that are not relevant for humans; (iii) the lack of knowledge about dose-effect relationships of DNA-protective and cancer protective dietary constituents; (iv) the use of exposure concentrations in animal models which exceed by far the human exposure levels; and finally (v) the lack of knowledge on the time-kinetics of protective effects. More relevant data can be expected from in vitro experiments with cells possessing inducible phase I and phase II enzymes, short-term in vivo models with laboratory animals which enable the measurement of effects in organs that are targets for tumour formation, and human biomonitoring studies in which endpoints are used that are related to DNA damage and cancer.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The experimental work described was sponsored by EU research grants (“Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Foods-Role in Human Health”—Amines-QLK-1–1999–01197).