Cancer Preventive and
Therapeutic Properties of Fruits
and Vegetables: An Overview
Chandrasekharan Guruvayoorappan, Kunnathur Murugesan Sakthivel,
Ganesan Padmavathi, Vaishali Bakliwal, Javadi Monisha
and Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara*
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for one
in every eight deaths — more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
According to GLOBOCAN (2008), approximately 12.7 million people are
diagnosed with cancer every year, causing approximately 7.6 million
deaths.1 During the past several decades, numerous epidemiological and
experimental studies have resulted in significant progress in understanding
the molecular mechanisms of cancer development. These studies also sug-
gest that lifestyle plays a critical role in the development of this disease. For
instance, obese and diabetic patients have a greater susceptibility to cancer
than lean and non-diabetic individuals. Moreover, it has been well estab-
lished that a diet rich in saturated fats and red meats and low in fresh fruits,
vegetables, and whole grains has been shown to increase the risk of cancer.
According to the United States National Institutes of Health, “12 servings of
fruits and vegetables a day” can prevent common diseases including cancer.
*Corresponding author: Ajaikumar B. Kunnumakkara, Ph.D., Assistant Professor,
Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, Assam, India.
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This clearly shows the importance of fruits and vegetables in the prevention
of this disease. In this chapter, we will discuss the common fruits and veg-
etables that are known to have anticancer properties. However, we will first
place the subject in context, discussing the history, classification and devel-
opment of cancer and its different treatment modalities.
Cancer has been known since human societies first recorded their activities,
but the formal study of cancer (i.e., oncology) was first documented in the
seventeenth century. Cancer can be defined as a disease of uncontrolled divi-
sion of abnormal cells. Cancer not only affects human and higher mammals,
but it affects almost all the multicellular organisms — animals as well as
plants. Nearly 175 years ago, the German microscopist, Johannes Müller, was
the first to show that cancers were made up of cells. After this finding, an
enormous amount of information has been amassed about this disease.
Markedly, in the past two decades, rapid technological advancement has aided
us as we dissever the cancer genomes, transcriptome, and proteome, in detail.
Classification of Cancer
The classification of cancer is highly complicated due to the presence of a
wide variety of human cancers that arise in almost every tissue in our
body. Oncologists and cancer biologists classify cancers based on the tis-
sues of origin, regardless of organ location, focusing on similarities in
cellular structure and function among tumors. A tumor is an abnormal
mass of tissue that can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant
(cancerous). Tumors can be either a solid mass comprised of epithelial or
mesenchymal cells that are usually immobile, or they can be a liquid sac,
which includes leukemias and lymphomas comprising neoplastic cells
whose precursors are usually motile.2 Further, pathologically, cancers are
classified into four different types:
(1) Carcinoma: originates from epithelial cells in the skin or in other tis-
sues that line or cover internal organ.
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An Overview 3
(2) Sarcoma: originates in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or
other connective or supportive tissue.
(3) Leukemia: originates in blood-forming tissues of the body such as
bone marrow, causing abnormal proliferation of blood cells usually,
white blood cells (leukocytes).
(4) Lymphoma: originates in the cells of the immune system, also termed
as cancers of the lymphoid organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen,
and thymus, which produce and supply infection-fighting cells.3
Development of Cancer: Multi-Stage Carcinogenesis
Carcinogenesis, the process of cancer development, is a multi-stage pro-
cess. Generally, cancer starts with a mutational event (i.e., genetic
changes) in a single normal cell; then, it will develop into a multi-stage
process through the acquisition of further mutations that are inherited by
the progeny of that cell when it divides, thus cancer is also termed as
clonal disease (Fig. 1.1). In higher animals or humans, the use of a cancer-
causing agent ( carcinogen) does not lead to the immediate production of
a tumor. Rather, it will arise after a long latent period. Berenblum and
Shubik in 19404 showed that there are three major stages involved in the
process of carcinogenesis. The first is initiation, which involves the muta-
genic effects of the carcinogen. The second stage is promotion, which may
be induced by several agents that are not directly carcinogenic (promot-
ers) and may be followed by the chronic treatment of the carcinogens.
The third stage is progression in which benign tumors either spontane-
ously, or followed by additional treatment of the carcinogens, will
progress to invasive tumors. The latent period between initiation and the
appearance of tumors is very long. After exposure to carcinogens, it may
take more than 20 years before tumors develop in humans. Even in ani-
mals, if given heavy doses of carcinogens, it may take up to one-third of
the animal’s total lifespan before tumors appear. Initiation and progres-
sion of cancer depend upon several external and internal factors such as
tobacco use, exposure to infectious organisms, radiation, hormones,
inherited mutations, and immune conditions. Uncontrolled mutations
and selective expansion of cancer cells lead to tumor growth and progression,
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eventually spreading to other locations of the body. This proliferation of
cancer cells is termed as metastasis.
Treatment Strategies for Cancer
Options for the treatment of cancer are expanding at a high rate. Current
strategies for treating cancer involve surgery, radiation, or drugs — either
singly or in combination.5
Surgical treatment involves excision of tumor, the most frequently
employed form of tumor therapy worldwide. In recent years, surgery com-
bined with other treatment approaches such as chemotherapy and
radiation therapy, has enhanced the effectiveness of cancer treatment. The
side effects of the surgical treatment depend upon the location of the
tumor, the patient’s general health, type of operation, and other factors.
Activation of proto-
inactivation of tumor
Normal cell Initiated cell
Defects in growth
control and resistance
Figure 1.1: Progressive model for multi-stage carcinogenesis.
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An Overview 5
Radiation therapy involves the exposure of the body to ionizing radia-
tions like X-rays and γ-rays to selectively target the cancer tissue. It
includes the uptake of radioactive iodine, which travels in the blood to kill
the cancer cells and is referred to as systemic radiation therapy. Additional
types of radiation therapy include external beam radiation therapy (e.g.,
X-ray tubes, cobalt gamma rays, and linear accelerators), brachytherapy
(caesium-137, iodine-125, or iridium-192), and radiopharmaceuticals
that target specific tissues. Currently, much research focuses on radiosen-
sitizers and radioprotectors. Radiosensitizers are drugs which make the
cancer cells more sensitive to the radiation therapy, in addition to anti-
cancer drugs like 5-fluorouracil and cisplastin. Natural radioprotectors
like rutin and quercetin, among others, are drugs that protect the normal
cells from damage and promote the repair of normal cells caused by
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to treat cancer. Research over the
past several decades has developed many chemotherapeutic agents for
the treatment of cancer. These include mustard gas, cyclophosphamide,
vincristine, vinblastine, taxol, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, etc. The com-
mon side effects of chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, hair
loss (alopecia), suppression of white blood cells and production of
platelets (myelosuppression), diarrhea, and decreased spermatogenesis/
ovarian follicle formation. Long-term toxicity and the risk of develop-
ing resistance to chemotherapy are formidable hindrances that could
limit the chronic application strategy in the chemotherapy of several
Cancer chemoprevention is a relatively new area in the field of oncology that
uses naturally occurring or synthetic agents to inhibit the process of carcino-
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genesis or to slow down the progression of cancer. Chemoprevention helps
to lower the risk of developing invasive or clinically significant diseases.
There are three different types of cancer chemoprevention: (1) primary pre-
vention in high-risk healthy individuals; (2) cancer prevention in individuals
who have developed pre-malignant lesions; and (3) prevention of secondary
forms of cancers in patients already treated for a primary cancer. The final
endpoint of all three aspects of chemoprevention is the attainment of clinical
evidence for cancer reduction.7 Cancer chemopreventive agents prevent the
transformation of pre-malignant lesions to form malignant tumors by
modulating cell proliferation and/or differentiation.8 It has been recom-
mended that these agents be administered over a long time period to
individuals who have an increased risk of developing cancer; however, even
minor adverse side effects would be unacceptable.9 It is now well established
that the compounds present in fruits and vegetables have fewer side effects
and are, therefore, ideal for cancer chemoprevention.
Anticancer Properties of Fruits and Vegetables: Their Active
Research over the past several decades suggests that a high intake of fruits
and vegetables decreases the risk of several cancers both in experimental
animals and in humans. The information concerning common fruits and
vegetables that are known to prevent cancer is extremely important for
patients, nutritionists, medical practitioners, and individuals interested in
following a healthy lifestyle. This section will discuss the common fruits
and vegetables that are known to prevent cancer and their active ingredi-
ents (Figs. 1.2 to 1.4).
Botanical name: Malus domestica
Apples are one of the most cultivated fruits in the world. It has been esti-
mated that 69 million tons of apples were grown, worldwide, in 2010.
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An Overview 7
China ranks first in apple production, followed by the United States, Iran,
Turkey, Russia, Italy, and India. There are more than 7,500 different culti-
vars of apple. They are often consumed raw and are also important
ingredients in many desserts such as apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp,
and apple cake. The saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” actually
reflects the health benefits of this fruit. Studies have shown that the apple
Apple Apricot Avocado BreadFruit
Cherimoya Cherry Fig
Black raspberry Black chokeberry
Figure 1.2: Common fruits that have been shown to have anticancer properties.
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8 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
and its constituents possess anticancer properties in breast, colon, liver,
skin, stomach, and prostate cancers. They contain many antioxidant phe-
nolic compounds and triterpenoids such as quercetin, epicatechin,
procyanidin B2, ursolic acid, phloretin, and maslinic acid.
Grapefruit Grape Guava
Hawthorn Jujube fruit
Figure 1.2 (Continued )
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An Overview 9
Botanical name: Prunus armeniaca
Apricots are yellow- to orange-colored fruits ranging in taste from sweet
to tart. The Vavilov Center of Origin believes that the apricot originated in
Figure 1.2 (Continued )
Plum Pomegranate Quince
Melon Nectarine Orange
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10 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
China; however, many other sources hold that this fruit was first cultivated
in India in about 3,000 B.C. There are more than 50 varieties of apricots
in the world. Egyptians use this fruit to make a drink called amar al-dƯn.
Apricots seeds and oils were used to treat tumors in ancient medicine. This
Artichoke Arugula Asparagus
BeetsBok choyBroccoli Broccoli rabe
Figure 1.3: Common vegetables that have been shown to have anticancer properties.
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An Overview 11
fruit is rich in carotenes, vitamins A and C, dietary fibers, and cyanogenic
glycosides. Amygdalin, a cyanogenic glycoside, and its semi-synthetic
form, laterile, possess anticancer activities against breast, cervical, colon,
and prostate cancers.
Eggplant English peas
Figure 1.3 (Continued )
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Botanical name: Persea americana
Avocados, also known as alligator pears, are native to the state of Puebla,
Mexico. Cultivated in tropical and Mediterranean climates throughout the
Tomatoes Turnips Winter squash
Figure 1.3 (Continued )
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An Overview 13
Figure 1.4: Anticancer compounds isolated from fruits and vegetables.
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Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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An Overview 15
Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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An Overview 17
Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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An Overview 19
Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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An Overview 21
Figure 1.4 (Continued )
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world, avocados have been used as far back as 10,000 B.C. The avocado is
the main ingredient in the Mexican dip, ‘ guacamole’, and is also used in
‘ California rolls’ and other ‘ makizushi ’ (rolled sushi). Also frequently used
in milkshakes, avocado intake has been shown to decrease blood low-den-
sity lipoprotein (LDL) and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels
in humans. Laboratory experiments show that this fruit possesses antican-
cer activities against breast, oral, and prostate cancers. While avocados have
a higher fat content than other fruits, they are mainly monounsaturated
fats, and they are rich in vitamins B3, C, and E. The main biologically active
compounds of this fruit are persin and persenone A.
Botanical name: Artocarpus altilis
Breadfruit, resembling jackfruit, is a staple food in many tropical regions.
It is thought to originate in Northwest New Guinea. The world’s largest
collection of breadfruit varieties has been established by botanist Diane
Ragone in Hawaii. In traditional medicine, this fruit is used to treat many
ailments including blood pressure, asthma, and tumors. Breadfruit leaves
are used to treat ear and skin infections and splenomegaly. The active
components of this plant are dihydroxy chalcones, as well as geranyl and
prenyl flavonoids. Geranyl flavonoids from the leaves of Artocarpus altilis
have exhibited cytotoxicity against colon, liver, and lung cancer cells.
Botanical name: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana
Southeast Asian farmers were the first to cultivate bananas. Evidence sug-
gests that banana cultivation goes back to at least 5,000 B.C., and possibly to
8,000 B.C. in Papua New Guinea. Bananas are rich sources of carbohydrates,
sugars, dietary fibers, and vitamin B6. The main biologically active com-
pounds of this fruit are hydroxycinnamic acid, delphinidin, and na proxen.
Studies have shown that banana consumption is associated with a reduced
risk of colorectal and breast cancers, as well as renal cell carcinoma.
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An Overview 23
Botanical name: Rubus fruticosus
There are over 375 species of blackberries, mostly cultivated in Europe and
the United States. The blackberry is an excellent source of dietary fiber, vita-
mins C and K, as well as folic acid. The biologically active compounds found
in blackberries are ellagic acid, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocya-
nins, and cyanidins. Studies have shown that blackberries can inhibit breast,
colon, lung, prostate, and skin cancers under experimental conditions.
Botanical name: Rubus coreanus, Rubus leucodermis, and Rubus occidentalis
The black raspberry, commonly known as wild black raspberry, black caps,
black cap raspberry, thimbleberry, and scotch cap, is a native of Eastern
North America. Black raspberries are rich in anthocyanins and ellagic acid.
They possess high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Increasing lines of evidence suggest that black raspberries possess anti-
cancer properties against colon, cervical, breast, esophageal, lung, oral,
prostate, and skin cancers.
Botanical name: Aronia melanocarpa (Michx.) Ell, Pyrus melanocarpa, and
The black chokeberry is native to the Great Lakes Region and Northeastern
United States. It is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. The biologically
active compounds isolated from these berries include cyanidin-3-
galactoside, epicatechin, caffeic acid, quercetin, delphinidin, petunidin,
pelargonidin, peonidin, and malvidin. Studies show that black chokeber-
ries exhibit anticancer activities against breast, cervical, and colon cancers,
as well as leukemia.
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Botanical name: Vaccinium species
Blueberries are native to North America and are classified in the section of
Cyanoccocus within the genus Vaccinium. They are now commercially
grown in Australia, New Zealand, and South American countries. The
biologically active compounds isolated from the blueberry mainly include
anthocyanins such as delphinidin 3,7,3′,-5′-tetraglucosides, naphthalene
naphthalene, allylisothiocyanate (AITC), and resveratrol. Studies show
that blueberries can inhibit selective tumor cell growth in prostate, lung,
cervical, and colon cancers, as well as leukemia.
Botanical name: Vaccinium erythrocarpum, V. macrocarpon, V. microcar-
pum, and V. oxycoccos
Cranberries are primarily cultivated in the United States and Canada. Raw
cranberries have been marketed as a “ super fruit” due to their high nutri-
tional content and antioxidant properties. They are used to make products
such as juice drinks, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The main
bioactive components of this fruit include hydroxycinnamate, quercetin,
myricetin, cyanidin, peonidin, and proantocyanidins. Studies have shown
that cranberry possess anticancer activities against cancers of the breast,
colon, lung, mouth, ovaries, and prostate.
Botanical name: Phyllanthus emblica
The Indian gooseberry is an edible fruit that possesses high medicinal value.
It contains large amounts of vitamins C and E. It also contains phytochem-
icals such as emblicanin A, emblicanin B, punigluconin and pedunculagin,
punicafolin, phyllanemblinin A, phyllanemblin, kaempferol, as well as
ellagic and gallic acids. Gooseberries possess antiviral, antimicrobial,
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An Overview 25
antioxidant, antidiabetic, and anticancer properties. Studies have shown
that this fruit prevents cervical, liver, lung, and oral cancers.
Botanical name: Fragaria ananassa
Strawberries are cultivated worldwide for their characteristic aroma, red
color, juicy texture, and sweetness. They are used to make fruit juice, pies,
ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, yogurt, and chocolates. Strawberries are
rich in vitamin C, flavonoids, dietary fiber, and fisetin. They have been
shown to inhibit breast, cervical, colon, and prostate cancers under exper-
Botanical name: Ribes nigrum
The blackcurrant is native to Northern Europe and Asia. It is used in jams,
jellies, ice cream, desserts, and sorbets. Rich in vitamins C, E, and B5, the
main chemical components of this fruit include delphinidin-3-O-
glucoside, delphinidin-3-O-rutinoside, cyanidin-3-O-glucoside, and cya-
nidin-3-O-rutinoside. Experiments have shown that blackcurrants inhibit
liver cancer in animals.
Botanical name: Cucumis melo
Although a member of the squash family, and technically a vegetable, can-
taloupe is considered a fruit because of the way it is used. Native to Central
Asia, Europe, and Japan, it is commonly known as muskmelon and its fruit
and peel have been used in traditional medicine. The major constituent of
the cantaloupe is serine containing protease cucumisin. Cantaloupes pos-
sess anti-hyperlipidemia and laxative properties. Reports have shown that
cantaloupe extract has enhanced differentiation in human colon cancer
cell lines. See also section on Melon, below.
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Botanical name: Annona cherimola
Chirimoya is native to the Andes and is grown throughout South Asia,
Central America, South America, Southern California, Southern Andalucia,
and Southern Italy. The main bioactive phytochemicals from this fruit
include annomolin, annocherimolin, and acetogenins. These chemicals
are known to inhibit proliferation of breast, colon, and prostate cancer cell
lines in experimental settings.
Botanical name: Prunus avium
Approximately two million tons of cherries are produced every year, world-
wide. Turkey stands number one in production followed by the United
States and Iran. This fruit is rich in its content of dietary fiber, vitamins,
and dietary minerals and is an excellent source of phenols, flavonoids, and
anthocyanins. Cherries also possess antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and
Botanical name: Durio zibethinus
Durian is often referred to as the “ king of fruits” in Southeast Asia. It con-
tains high amounts of sugar, vitamin C, potassium, and the serotonergic
amino acid tryptophan, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Reports suggest
that the durian possesses antioxidant properties.
Botanical name: Ficus carica
Native to the Middle East and Western Asia, the fig is widely grown
throughout the temperate world, and is used to make jams and cookies.
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An Overview 27
Figs are a rich source of dietary fiber and vitamin K. The bioactive com-
ponents of this fruit include gallic, chlorogenic, and syringic acids, as well
as catechin, epicatechin, and rutin. Figs are known to inhibit breast, skin,
and stomach cancers under experimental conditions.
Botanical name: Citrus paradisi
The grapefruit, a citrus fruit, is known for its sour to semi-sweet flavor.
It contains grapefruit mercaptan, a sulphur, which in turn contain ster-
pene, influencing its flavor. Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin
C and pectin. It also contains polyamine, aspermidine compound,
which is known to increase the lifespan of worms, fruit flies, yeast, and
human immune cells. Studies have shown that grapefruit also contains
compounds such as 4′- geranyloxyferulic acid, obacunone, and obacu-
noneglucoside. Experiments have shown that grapefruit inhibits colon
Botanical name: Vitis vinifera
Grapes are regarded as one of the most produced fruit crops. Large, seed-
less, thin-skinned commercial varieties of grapes are termed table grapes,
while small, thick-skinned ones are referred to as wine grapes. Some of
the grape’s prime constituents are anthocyanins, polyphenols ( resvera-
trol), catechins, phenolic acids ( ferulic, gallic, caffeic, p-coumarics, and
syringic acids), procyanidins, flavonoids, and sugars (glucose and fruc-
tose). Grape extract possesses antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-atherosclerotic,
antiarrhythmic, vasorelaxation, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial
properties. Many studies have shown that grape extract and its constitu-
ents inhibit numerous varieties of cancers including bladder, brain,
breast, colon, head and neck cancers, as well as leukemia, lung, pancre-
atic, and skin cancers.
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Botanical name: Psidium guajava
Guavas are native to Mexico, Central America, and Northern South
America. However, they are cultivated throughout the tropics and sub-
tropics including Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, North
America, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, and Spain. Guavas are rich in
dietary fiber and vitamins A and C. They also contain compounds such as
(+)-gallocatechin, guaijaverin, leucocyanidin, amritoside, gallic acid, cat-
echin, quercetin, and rutin. Guavas are known to inhibit lung and prostate
Botanical name: Annona muricata L.
Commonly known as soursop, the guyabano fruit is native to Mexico,
Cuba, Central America, the Caribbean, and Northern South America, pri-
marily Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela, as well as some
parts of Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Studies have reported that
extracts from leaves of Annona muricata showed cytotoxic effects against
Botanical name: Crataegus pinnatifida and C. mexicana
Also known as thornapple or hawberry, the hawthorn is commonly grown in
the Northern Hemisphere in Europe, North America, and Asia. Used to pro-
duce jams, jellies, juices, and alcoholic beverages, the thornapple contains
tannins, flavonoids, oligomeric proanthocyanidins ( epicatechin, procyanidin,
and particularly procyanidin B-2), flavone-C, triterpene acids ( ursolic,
oleanolic and crataegolic acids), and phenolic acids ( caffeic, chlorogenic, and
related phenolcarboxylic acids). The Chinese hawthorn fruit helps to lower
blood cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Proanthocyanidins
have exhibited cytotoxic effects on ovarian cancer cell lines.
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An Overview 29
Botanical name: Artocarpus heterophyllus
Native to South and Southeast Asia, the jackfruit is widely cultivated in the
tropical regions of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand,
Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Jackfruit is starchy, fibrous, and a rich source of dietary fiber. It contains
various phytochemicals such as artocarpin, isobutyl isovalerate, 2-meth-
ylbutanol, jacalin, and butyl isovalerate. Jackfruit is known to inhibit
breast and skin cancers.
Botanical name: Ziziphus jujube
Commonly known as the red Chinese, Korean, or Indian date, the jujube
fruit is cultivated mainly in Southern Asia. The fruit and seeds have been
used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine for antifungal, antibacte-
rial, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, sedative, antispastic, antifertility,
hypotensive, antinephritic, cardiotonic, antioxidant, immunostimulant
effects as well as in wound-healing. The extracts from Ziziphus jujube have
been shown to exert anti-proliferative effects against breast cancer cell
lines as well as in liver carcinoma cell lines.
Botanical name: Actinidia chinensis
A native of Southern China, kiwifruit — a climacteric fruit — has been
used as a prominent Chinese herbal medicine and is considered the
“national fruit of China.” Some of its prime constituents are anthraqui-
nones, ascorbic acid, triterpenes, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, protein
( actinchinin), and dietary fiber. The kiwi also contains lutein and zeaxan-
thin. It is known for its antiangiogenic, anticancer, antifungal, antioxidant,
and immunomodulatory properties. Kiwis also improve laxation, diges-
tion, and cardiovascular health.
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Lime and lemon
Botanical name: Citrus limon
These fruits, native to Asia, are used to make pickles, juices, and cocktails.
They consist of flavonone ( hesperetin and naringenin) and limonoids
( obacunone, obacunone glucoside, limonin, limonin glucoside, nomilin,
nomilinic acid glucoside, and deacetylnomilinic acid). The limonoids
modulate the caspase-7-dependent pathways and may have the potential
to combat breast cancer. They possess antiatherogenic, chemoprotective,
anticancer effects in the cervix and colon and have anti-inflammatory,
antihypertensive, and anti-aromatase properties.
Botanical name: Litchi chinensis
This delicious tropical fruit, native to Southern China, Taiwan, Bangladesh,
and Southeast Asia, is cultivated around the globe, especially in semi-
tropical areas. It contains vitamin C, cyanidin-3-glucoside, and
malvidin-3-glucoside. The lychee may be used as a topical agent and anti-
oxidant. Lychee seeds possess antitumor and anti-colorectal cancer
properties and act as astringent, hyperlipidemic, anti-inflammatory, anal-
gesic, and anti-hypoglycemic agents. This fruit’s pericarp has been shown
to inhibit breast and liver cancer cell growth.
Botanical name: Rubus ( Rubus ursinus) × loganobaccus ( Rubus idaeus)
The loganberry was derived accidentally by crossing blackberries and
raspberries. The plant and fruit resemble blackberries, but the fruit is dark
red in color. These berries are rich in soluble fiber and vitamins and min-
erals such as vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron, and also contain ellagic
acid, known to inhibit cancer in humans.
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An Overview 31
Botanical name: Citrus reticulate
The mandarin, also known as the mandarin orange, is a juicy fruit, which
resembles other oranges. In Chinese medicine, it has been used to enhance
digestion and to reduce phlegm. The different cultivars and crosses of this
fruit include satsuma, owari, clementine, tangerine, tangor, etc. Ugly fruit
is a variety developed by hybridizing the mandarin orange (Citrus reticu-
late) × grapefruit (Citrus paradise). Mandarin oranges contain
phytochemicals such as β-cryptoxanthin and hesperidin. Studies have
shown that this fruit inhibits colon, lung, and stomach cancers in experi-
Botanical name: Mangifera indica
The mango is the national fruit of India and is native to South Asia.
Mangoes are commonly cultivated in many tropical and subtropical
regions. The fruit is used to prepare juice, jelly, jam, milkshakes, pickles,
etc. It contains chemicals such as provitamin A, α-carotene, β-carotene,
lutein, quercetin, kaempferol, catechins, mangiferin, as well as caffeic and
galllic acids. The mango has been shown to inhibit cancers of the breast,
colon, lung, skin, and prostate in experimental settings.
Botanical name: Garcinia mangostana
Mangosteen trees are found in all over the world, especially in the
Southeast Asian rainforests. The mangosteen has been used as a thera-
peutic agent, especially in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. It possesses
oxygen-containing heterocyclic compounds, i.e., xanthones ( mango-
stingone, cudraxanthone G, 8-deoxygartanin, garcimangosone B,
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32 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
garcinone D, tovophyllin A, α-mangostin, γ-mangostin, smeathxan-
thone, and 8-hydroxycudraxanthone G). Moreover, α-mangostin is a
competitive antagonist of the histamine (H1) receptor. This fruit shows
antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-tuberculosis,
neuroprotective, cardioprotective, immunomodulatory, anti-allergic,
and antitumor effects. Studies have shown that this fruit inhibits prolif-
eration and growth of bladder, breast, brain, colon, prostate, and skin
cancer cells as well as leukemia.
Botanical name: Benincasa hispida ( winter melon), and Cucumis metulif-
erus ( horned melon), Cucumis melo (different varieties: muskmelon,
canary melon, honeydew, and hami melon)
A group of fleshy fruits belonging to the family Cucurbitaceae, melons
contain compounds such as cucurbitacin A & B, and lycopene. Although
the flesh of wild melon, Egusi is inedible, the seeds rich in fat and protein
are a wildly used food source in Africa. Horned melon also known as
African horned cucumber is a culinary fruit. Its peel is rich in vitamin C
and dietary fiber. Winter melon, belonging to the genus Benincasa, is a
culinary vegetable which helps to increase appetite. Moreover, its fresh
juice has the ability to cure kidney stones. Various studies have shown that
phytochemicals present in melon prevent cancers of the brain, breast,
Botanical name: Citrus sinensis
Orange trees, considered to have originated in Southeast Asia, are widely
grown in tropical and subtropical regions for their sweet fruit. There are
many different varieties, including Valencia, Hart’s Tardiff Valencia, Hamlin,
caracara, navel, blood, and acidless oranges. They provide a rich source of
vitamin C and the dietary fiber, pectin. Oranges contain compounds such
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An Overview 33
as chitooligosaccharides, cyanidin 3-O-glucoside, hesperidin, narirutin,
didymin, sinensetin, nobiletin, tangeretin, and ferulic acid. Studies have
shown that this fruit inhibits breast, colon, and skin cancers.
Botanical Name: Carica papaya
Papaya, alternately referred to as pawpaw, is a tropical fruit native to
Central America, Southern Mexico, and Northern South America, and is
cultivated in Africa, Malaysia, and the West Indies. Some of its chemical
constituents are benzyl glucosinolate, ferulic acid, tocopherols, alkaloids,
p-coumaric acid, vitamin C, caffeic acid, β-carotene, etc. The papaya is
used in the conventional treatment of ringworm and malarial episodes. It
also possesses antioxidant, anti-atherosclerotic, cardioprotective, hypolipi-
demic, wound-healing, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, anticancer
(colon), and anti-hypertensive properties. The hydroloysis product of ben-
zyl glucosinolate of this fruit is postulated to have anticancer properties.
Botanical name: Prunus persica
Peaches and nectarines are the same species of edible, juicy fruits native to
Northwest China and are cultivated in Ecuador, Colombia, Ethiopia, India,
and Nepal. Peaches contain high amounts of carbohydrates and vitamins
A and C. They are known to contain mandelic acid glycosides
( β-gentiobioside and β-D-glucoside) and benzyl alcohol glycosides
(β-gentiobioside and β-D-glucoside) that are responsible for this fruit’s
anticancer properties. Phenolic compounds derived from peach are chlo-
rogenic acid, (+)- catechin and (−)- epicatechin, gallic acid, neochlorogenic
acid, procyanidin B1 and B3, procyanidin gallates, and ellagic acid. The
fleshy extracts of peach have been shown to improve the efficiency of cis-
platin and protected cisplatin-treated mice against nephrotoxicity. Peach
extract also inhibited cell-derived allergic inflammation.
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34 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
Botanical name: Pyrus species
Pears are edible fruits, native to Western Europe and North Africa as well
as across Asia. Pears are rich in vitamins A, C, and K and in dietary fiber.
They also contain quercetin and hydroxycinnamic acid, and pears are
known to lower the risk of breast, lung, and stomach cancers.
Botanical name: Ananas comosus
The pineapple is a tropical fruit indigenous to South America. It is used in
juices, jams, curries, etc. Known to enhance digestion in traditional medi-
cine, pineapples have also been used to treat inflammatory disorders.
Pineapples contain a chemical, bromelanin, which is known to inhibit the
proliferation of breast and skin cancer cells.
Botanical name: Diospyros species
Persimmons are edible fruits, which range in color from yellowish-orange
to dark reddish-orange, depending on the species and variety. These fruits
are cultivated in South Asia, Europe, Japan, and America. The persimmon
contains a high amount of dietary fiber and also compounds like betulinic
acid, catechin, gallocatechin, and shibuol. Studies have shown that it
reduces ear diseases and cancer.
Botanical name: Prunus species
Plums are cultivated all over the globe and China stands as the world’s larg-
est producer. Some of the different cultivars used today are damson,
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An Overview 35
greengage, mirabelle, and yellowgage. The plum is rich in antioxidants and
contains dietary fiber, sorbitol, isatin, and amygdalin. Plums are known to
prevent a number of cancers including those of breast, colon, liver, and skin.
Botanical name: Punica granatum
Its use in folk medicine in various cultures and its presence in the Garden
of Eden, attests to the pomegranate’s long history. The fruit consists of
polyplenolic flavonoids like anthocyanins (such as delphinidin-3-gluco-
side, cyanidin-3-glucoside, and cyanidin-3,5-diglucoside) and
anthoxanthins (such as gallic acid, ellagic acid, catechins, and ellagic tan-
nins). It possesses antioxidative, cardioprotective, antiosteoarthritic, and
antiatherogenic, properties. Pomegranate seed oil comprises several conju-
gated fatty acids, such as punicic acid, having anticancer effects. Its extract
down-regulates homologous recombination and hence sensitizes breast
cancer cells to drug therapy. It may emerge as a potential treatment for
cancer, especially for colon and prostate cancers.
Botanical name: Cydonia oblonga
Native to Southwest Asia, Turkey, and Iran, quince is cultivated in many
countries such as Turkey, China, Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Iran. Used to
make jam, jelly, quince pudding, and wine, the fruit contains
5-O-caffeoylquinic acid and is known to inhibit the proliferation of colon,
kidney, liver, and lung cancer cell lines.
Botanical name: Citrullus lanatus
Watemelons originated from Southern Africa, and are considered a good
source of vitamin C and glutathione, carotenoids such as lycopene,
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36 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
β-carotene, and β-cryptoxanthin, as well as L-citrulline (an effective pre-
cursor of L-arginine) and a small fraction of cucurbitacins, all of which
have been shown to have cancer chemopreventive properties. The water-
melon also has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial
properties and to reduce cardiovascular risk factors by improving glycemic
control and ameliorating vascular dysfunction in laboratory animals with
type 2 diabetes. Cucurbitacin E and cucurbitacin B are associated with a
lower risk of breast cancer according to a recent study.
Botanical name: Cynara scolymus
Artichokes were believed to have originated in the Mediterranean Region,
the state of Virginia (in the United States), and Southern Europe. Used to
make “ Tisane” ( artichoke tea), some of its vital constituents are hydrolys-
able tannins ( chlorogenic acid, cynarin), flavone glycosides ( luteolin),
phenylpropanoids ( caffeic acid), sesquiterpene lactones ( cynaropicrin),
volatile oils ( caryophyllene), and phytosterols ( taraxasterol). The extract
of this vegetable possesses anticancer properties against breast, liver, and
skin cancers. The artichoke’s medicinal importance lies in its ability to
inhibit angiogenesis, inflammation, and cancer cell proliferation.
Botanical name: Eruca sativa
Arugula is an edible annual plant, commonly known as salad rocket, native
to Central Asia, South Europe, Morocco, and Portugal in the West, and to
Lebanon and Turkey in the East. Its leaves and seeds were mainly used in
traditional medicine. Arugula has acted as an astringent, aphrodisiac, diu-
retic, digestive, and emollient. It also has been utilized to encourage hair
growth and as a depurative and laxative with potential use as an alternative
to mineral oil. Additionally, it has industrial applications in soap-making
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An Overview 37
and as a lubricant. Moreover, arugula possesses anti-inflammatory proper-
ties for the treatment of colitis. The active ingredients include fatty acids
such as erucic, oleic, palmitic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, as well as flavo-
noids and glucosinolate ( 4-mercaptobutyl glucosinolate). Arugula contains
two cancer-fighting agents, namely, kaempferol and quercetin, which have
been reported to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Botanical name: Asparagus officinalis
Asparagus is a spring vegetable that is native to the temperate regions of
the Himalayas and Spain. In traditional medicine, the roots, leaves, bark,
and fruit of the asparagus were used frequently. The chemical constitu-
ents of asparagus include vitamins, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin,
asparagine, sarsasapogenin and shatavarin I–IV, asparagamine, curillins G
and H, and spirostanosides. Asparagus is well known for its antioxidant,
anti- inflammatory, antioxytocic, antibacterial, antifungal, hypocholester-
olemic, hepatoprotective, and immunostimulant properties. Studies have
shown that this plant possesses anticancer activities against breast, colon,
liver, and skin cancers.
Botanical name: Ocimum sanctum
Basil, or sweet basil, is a common name for the herb Ocimum basilicum.
The plant is found in Asia, East Anatolia in Turkey, and Africa. The whole
plant is used in traditional medicine. It has been reported that the essen-
tial oil of basil contains carvacrol, methylchavicol, caryophyllene, nerol,
camphene, geraniol, linalool, camphor, citral, eugenol, ursolic acid,
oleanolic acid, quercetin, isoquercetin, kaempferol, rosmarinic acid, cat-
echin, caffeic acid, ferulic acid, rutin, rutiniside, and apigenin. Carnosol
has been shown to inhibit carcinogenesis in human prostate cancer cells.
Basil leaf extract has been found highly effective in inhibiting carcinogen-
induced lung tumors in experimental mice. Basil oil and its components
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38 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
have been shown to have significant anti-proliferative activity in mouse
leukemia and kidney cells. In addition, basil oil has been found to signifi-
cantly inhibit carcinogen-induced squamous cell carcinomas in the
stomachs of mice.
Botanical name: Phaseolus vulgaris
A bean is a type of legume and ‘bean’ is the common name for plant seeds
used for human food or animal feed of several genera belonging to the
family Fabaceae. Dry beans and other legumes contain dietary fiber and
folate. Several studies link higher consumption of legumes with lower risk
of colon cancer or the benign adenomas (polyps) that are the beginning of
most colon cancers. Beans, rich in the B vitamin folate, can contribute to
a diet that helps lower the risk for pancreatic cancer. Beans contain mainly
peptides namely cyclotides and exhibit antimicrobial, anti-proliferative,
antioxidative, and anti-HIV activities.
Botanical name: Beta vulgaris
Commonly known as sugar beet, red beet, or beetroot, beets were believed
to be natives of California. Leaves and roots were used as medicines in
traditional practice. The active components of the beet include
α-tocopherol, β-carotene, betanin, polyphenols, and fiber. Beets also con-
tain betacyanins (red-violet pigments) and betaxanthins (yellow pigments).
Several reports about the effect of Beta vulgaris show an improvement in
the quality of life of metastatic prostate cancer patients. The cytotoxic
effect of red beetroot extract, compared to doxorubicin (Adriamycin), in
human prostate and breast cancer cell lines has also been reported. It has
also been reported that extract of beet has significant antiproliferative
effects against colon cancer cells.
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An Overview 39
Botanical name: Brassica chinensis ( Chinese cabbage)
The geographical distribution of bok choy, commonly known as Chinese
white cabbage, has mostly been in Asia, particularly in China. Bok choy
contains glucosinolates as its main constituents, which in turn contain a
sulfur group. Once ingested, bok choy is broken down into oxazolidines,
thiocyanates, and nitriles. It also contains myrosinase, which increases
glucosinolate hydrolysis and sulforaphane, which exhibit antioxidant and
anti-inflammatory activities. Scientific reports have shown the preventive
effect of Brassica chinensis against colon carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-
6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP)-induced PhIP-DNA] adduct
formation in Sprague–Dawley rats, and the mechanism is likely to involve
the induction of detoxification enzymes.
Botanical name: Brassica oleraceae var. italica and Brassica rapa
Broccoli belongs to the cabbage family native to California. The parts of
broccoli include its stem, leaves, and inflorescences, and they were used in
traditional medicine. The chemical constituents of broccoli include gluc-
oraphanin, glucoiberin, sulforaphane, carotenoids, vitamins, particularly
vitamin C, and myrosinase. Many reports have shown broccoli extracts’
anticancer activity including cancers of the breast, bladder, colon, and lung.
Broccoli rabe or rapini
Botanical name: Brassica rapa
Broccoli rabe, also called rapini, resembles broccoli and is a green crucifer-
ous vegetable. It is a source of vitamins C and K and also contains
compounds such as brassicaphenanthrene A, 6-paradol, and trans-6-
shogaol. These compounds are known to inhibit the growth of colon and
breast cancer cell lines.
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40 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea
Brussels sprouts are native to Belgium and Brazil. They have been used
extensively in Brazilian traditional medicine to treat gastric ulcers. The con-
stituents of Brussels sprouts include caffeic, ferulic, sinapic and p-coumaric
acids, methylsulfanylalkyl glucosinolate, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and
indoles that are involved in inhibition of procarcinogen activation. The
immunomodulatory activity of sulforaphane, a naturally occurring isothio-
cyanate from Brassica oleracea, has been reported recently. Many scientific
reports have evidenced that Brussels sprout extracts inhibit the cell prolifera-
tion of colon cancer cell lines. A number of recent epidemiological studies
have pointed out that high intake of Brussels sprouts may be associated with
a lower risk of cancers of the pancreas, breast, prostate, stomach, and lungs.
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea
Another cultivar of the species ‘oleracea,’ the cabbage was most likely domesti-
cated in Europe before 1,000 B.C. Cabbages have been used to prepare dishes
such as sauerkraut and kimchee. This vegetable is a good source of β-carotene,
vitamin C, and dietary fiber, and also contains anticancer compounds such as
sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. The cabbage is known to prevent certain
cancers, including breast, gastric, liver, lung, and prostate cancers.
Botanical name: Daucus carota
The carrot is an orange-colored, horn-like root vegetable. Its dietary use ren-
ders the body with inadequate amounts of vitamin A, whereas carrot juice
imparts considerable amounts of therapeutic provitamin A. The active com-
pounds reported in carrots include myristicin, pectin, falcarinol, β-carotene,
and α-terpineol. Recent research performed on rats fed raw carrots or merely
falcarinol — an antioxidant extracted from carrots — demonstrated a delay
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An Overview 41
in the growth of colon tumors. The compound falcarinol is a polyacethylene
and hence its efficacy is greatly reduced during cooking. A study found that
drinking carrot juice increases the levels of carotenoids in the blood of breast
cancer survivors, which help to prevent the cancer from recurring. Carrots
contain much beta carotene, which may help reduce a wide range of cancers
including those of the lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, pros-
tate, and breast.
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
Cauliflower is originally from Italy, Northeast Europe, and Asia, and is
commonly known as green or white curd cauliflower. Its inflorescence is
most often used. The major compounds present in cauliflower are glucosi-
nolates, sulforaphane, peroxidases, isalexin, S-(−)-spirobrassinin,
1-methoxybrassitin, brassicanal C, indole-3-carbinol, and caulilexins A, B,
and C. A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk
of aggressive prostate cancer; hence, it is also called a cancer-killing crucifier.
Reports on sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is
chopped or chewed, has shown protection against many cancers. Indole-3-
carbinol has been reported to prevent the growth of different cancer cells.
Botanical name: Apium graveolens
Apium graveolens is used either for its crisp leaf stalk or fleshy taproot. The
leaves are strong-flavored and are included in soups and stews or as a dried
herb. The essential oil of celery contains d-limonene, p-mentha-2,8-dien-
1-ol, p-mentha-8(9)-en-1,2-diol, 3-n-butyl phthalide, sedanolideβ-pinene,
β-phellendrene, α-thuyene, camphene, cumene, sabinene, and terpinolene.
Celery exhibits antiulcerogenic, antimicrobial, antifungal, hepatoprotec-
tive, anti-hyperlipidemic, and larvicidal activities, and can also serve as a
mosquito repellent. Celery seed extracts exhibit anti-proliferative effects on
human gastric cancer cells. Celery is also known to inhibit liver cancer and
stomach cancer in animals.
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42 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
Botanical name: Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum annuum, and Capsicum
The chili pepper is the fruit of a plant that belongs to the genus Capsicum,
members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. This vegetable originated
in the Americas, more specifically in Culiacan, Sinaloa in Mexico, and
also in Asia. The reported active ingredients of C. pubescens include
2-methoxypyrazines, 2-nonenals, and 2,6-nonadienal. C. baccatum con-
tains guaiacol, 2-heptanethiol, α-pinene, 1,8-cineol, linalool, and
3-isobutyl-2-methoxypyrazine. Chili pepper extract has evidenced cyto-
toxic impacts on human cervical cancer cells. Capsanthin and capsanthin
3 ′-ester and capsanthin 3, 3′-diester, isolated from the fruits of red
paprika (C. annuum) have exhibited potent antitumor-promoting activity
in an in vivo mouse skin two-stage carcinogenesis model.
Botanical name: Allium schoenoprasum
Chives are bulb-forming herbaceous plants used for culinary purposes as
flavoring herbs. Used as an ingredient for fish, potatoes, soups, and other
dishes, chives’ medicinal properties are similar to those of garlic and con-
tain organosulphur compounds. The compounds from chive are known to
inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells.
Botanical name: Zea mays
Corn, also called maize, is a rich source of starch and is used as an impor-
tant excipient in the pharmaceutical industry. Two grades of corn starch
are available — ‘ Maizena’ and ‘ Mondamin.’ It has been reported that the
main constituents of corn lutein are gluten and starch. Corn oil is rich in
vitamin E. Lutein prevents the in vivo oxidation of vitamin A, and may
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An Overview 43
exert chemopreventive effects against colon cancer. It is also known to
inhibit N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced hepatocellular carcinoma. Lutein
is non-toxic and will be one of the prime compounds in the cancer chem-
oprevention trials of the future.
Botanical name: Cucumis sativus
The cucumber is native to India. The important phytochemicals of this
vegetable include cucurbitacins, vitexin, cucumerin A and B, divinyl
reductase proteins, cucumegastigmanes I and II, orientin, and glucosides.
Cucumbers scavenge, in vivo, unwanted wastes and toxic substances, and
they also combat irritation and inflammation. This vegetable exhibits anti-
diabetic, hemostatic, lipid-lowering, tonic, and antioxidant activities. The
cucumber is known to inhibit skin cancer in animals.
Botanical name: Anethum graveolens
Dill, also known as Lao coriander, is a native of the Mediterranean region,
Central Asia, countries in the southern areas of the former USSR, and
Japan. Dill grows easily from seed, is delicious in a variety of dishes, and
attracts beneficial insects to the garden with its tiny flowers. The major
components present in dill are quercetin, isorharmentin, umbelliferone,
myristicin, anethofuran, carvone, and limonene. The oil of dill was found
to contain anethofuran, carvone, and limonene, all of which have shown
strong antioxidant and chemopreventive properties.
Botanical name: Solanum melongena
Eggplant, also known as brinjal or guinea squash, is native to the Indian
subcontinent and is a widely used vegetable in a variety of dishes. Eggplant
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44 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
contains low amounts of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and is found to
reduce weight and lower plasma cholesterol levels and aortic cholesterol
content in hypercholesterolemic rabbits. Eggplant extracts inhibit the
growth of human fibrosarcoma cell lines.
Botanical name: Pisum sativum
English peas, also known as garden, smooth, or field peas, are traditionally
eaten without the pods. Copper-containing amine oxidases, isolated from the
seedling of this vegetable, are known to metabolize biogenic amines in vivo and
thus combat several allergic reactions. Peas also exhibit selenium accumulation
properties. The major active compounds present are flavonoids, polyphenols,
and starch. Additionally, peas are rich in protein and possess strong antioxi-
dant, hypocholesterolaemic, and anticarcinogenic properties. Scientific
evidence shows that peas inhibit the proliferation of colon cancer cells.
Botanical name: Cichorium endivia
Escarole, popularly known as endive or chicory, is used in salads or cooked
in olive oil with garlic. The active components from this vegetable are
scyllo-inositol, carotenoids, phenols, kaempferol, and its conjugates.
Endive possesses strong antioxidant and anticancer activities in vitro against
cervix epithelial adenocarcinoma, skin epidermoid carcinoma, and breast
epithelial adenocarcinoma cell lines.
Botanical name: Allium sativum
Garlic is a species in the onion genus, Allium, native to central Asia. Garlic
has been traditionally used to fight bacterial infections. The active ingredient
diallyltrisulfide (DATS) present in garlic oil significantly reduces liver injury
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An Overview 45
caused by carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) in rats. Other medicinal uses of garlic
include prevention against heart disease, including atherosclerosis, high
cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The medicinal use of garlic is mainly
attributed to its protective role against colorectal and stomach cancers.
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea
Kohlrabi, a low and stout cultivar of cabbage, is an important part of the
Kashmiri diet. It can be eaten raw as well as cooked. It is a rich source
of vitamin C and contains chemicals that are known to possess anti-
inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Botanical name: Lactuca sativa
Lettuce is a leafy vegetable first cultivated by the ancient Egyptians. The
therapeutic proteins isolated with lettuce inhibit dengue and hepatitis B
infections. Freeze-dried lettuce cells are used to produce vaccines. The
water extracts of lettuce are known to inhibit the growth of human leuke-
mia and breast cancer cell proliferation.
Botanical name: Abelmoschus esculentus
Okra, commonly known as lady’s finger, is cultivated in tropical, sub-
tropical, and temperate regions around the world. Okra originated in
Africa and spread to several tropical countries including Brazil and
Nigeria. Okra’s chemical constituents include polysaccharides, lectin, fla-
vonoids, and phenols. This vegetable has strong antioxidant properties
and is used to treat numerous maladies like cancer, constipation, hypogly-
cemia, hemagglutination, inflammation, microbial infections, and urine
retention. Okra extracts are known to inhibit the proliferation of colon
cancer and retinoblastoma cells.
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46 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
Botanical name: Allium cepa
Onions, also known as bulb onions, are cultivated worldwide. The leading
onion-producing countries are, in descending order, China, India, the
United States, Turkey, and Pakistan. The chemical constituents present in
onions are allyl methyl trisulfide (AMT), allyl methyl disulfide (AMD),
diallyltrisulfide (DAT), and diallyl sulfide (DAS). Onions possess antitu-
mor, schistosomicidal, immunomodulatory, and radioprotective effects.
The onion also inhibits platelet aggregation. The consumption of onions is
consistently associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Epidemiologic
and laboratory studies suggest that allium vegetables, including onions and
their constituents, reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Botanical name: Cichorium intybus
Radicchio is an Italian salad plant that looks lovely in the garden with its
red foliage. Radicchio is also called leaf chicory and its chemical constitu-
ents include terpenoids, chicoric acid, caftaric acid, inulin, and β-sitosterol.
Traditionally, radiccio is used as a liver tonic, cardiotonic, diuretic, chola-
gogue, depurative, and an emmenagogue. Radicchio also serves in the
treatment of hepatomegaly, cephalalgia, inflammations, anorexia, dyspep-
sia, jaundice, and splenomegaly. It possesses antibacterial, antiplaque,
hypercholesterolemic, hepatoprotective, and anti-inflammatory proper-
ties, and wound-healing effects.
Botanical name: Pastinaca sativa
The parsnip, a root vegetable resembling white carrots, is native to Eurasia.
Parsnips are used in soups and stews and are often roasted. The active
ingredients present in the parsnip include falcarinol, falcarindiol, myris-
ticin, psoralen, bergapten, xanthotoxin, isopimpinellin, and umbelliferone.
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An Overview 47
Parsnips exhibit anti-proliferative activity in human leukemia and colon
Botanical name: Solanum tuberosum
The potato is a starchy edible tuber native to the Andes of South America and
now cultivated in more than 160 countries. Potatoes are rich in starch, ster-
oids, alkaloidal glycosides ( solanine), vitamins C and B, and potassium.
Potatoes alleviate pain when applied topically in the form of packs. Raw pota-
toes are used for gastrointestinal disorders. The glycoalkaloids ( α-chaconine
and α-solanine) from potatoes are shown to inhibit the proliferation and
growth of human cervical, liver, lymphoma, and stomach cancer cells.
Botanical name: Cucurbita moschata and Cucurbita moschata
The pumpkin is a gourd-like squash, indigenous to North America as well
as Argentina, China, India, Mexico, Brazil, Korea, and Iran, and is now
found all over the world. Its chemical constituents are polysaccharides,
sterols, β-carotene, α- and β-moschins, and ryonolic acid. Pumpkin
exhibits analgesic, anti-hypertension, antidiabetic, antitumor, antibacte-
rial, antifungal, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory activities.
β-carotene reduces skin damage from the Sun and acts as an anti-inflam-
matory agent. α-carotene is thought to slow the aging process, reduce the
risk of developing cataracts, and prevent tumor growth. Studies have
reported that the pumpkin can be used for the treatment of benign pros-
tate hyperplasia because of its high β-sitosterol content.
Botanical name: Raphanus sativus
The radish, which belongs to the cruciferae family, is a common edible leafy
vegetable largely consumed in Korea as well as in Asia and Japan. The chemical
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48 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
constituents present in the radish are glucoraphenin, glucoerucin, 4-methyl-
thio-3-butenyl glucosinolate, 4-hydroxyglucobrassicin, glucobrassicin, and
4-methoxy-glucobrassicin. It possesses antioxidant, hypolipidemic, anticancer,
and anti-hypertensive effects. The polyphenols and flavonoids present in rad-
ishes inhibit cell proliferation and induce, apoptosis in cancer cells.
Botanical name: Rheum officanale and Rheum rhabarbarum
Rhubarb is native to Tibet, South East China, and Asia. The chemical con-
stituents reported in rhubarb are rhein-8-glucoside, piceatannol, emodin,
gallic acid, d-catechin, and epicatechin. The anthroquinone, emodin, and
aloe-emodin, present in rhubarb have the potential to inhibit cancer cell
proliferation and apoptosis induction, as well as the possible prevention of
metastasis. Rhein is the other major rhubarb anthraquinone that has the
property to inhibit the uptake of glucose in tumor cells, which causes
changes in membrane-associated functions leading to cell death.
Botanical name: Brassica napus
Rutabaga, also known as Swedish turnip, rapeseed, or yellow turnip
( Brassica napobrassica, or Brassica napus var. napobrassica, or Brassica
napus subsp. rapifera) is a root vegetable that originated as a cross between
the cabbage and the turnip. The active components present in rutabagas
are tocopherol, brassinolide, cerebroside, and ceramide. Brassinolide is a
plant sterol first isolated from the rape pollen of Brassica napus L. and has
been shown to induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells, thereby
acting as promising candidate for the treatment of prostate cancer.
Botanical name: Spinacia oleracea
Spinach is an edible flowering plant, thought to have originated in ancient
Persia. Spinach is an excellent dietary source of folate vitamins A, B6, C, D,
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An Overview 49
and vitamin K, as well as iron, manganese and magnesium. Spinach
contains various carotenoids such as β-carotene and lutein, as well as fla-
vonoids such as kaempferol, and a variety of lignans, chlorophylls, and
glycolipids with demonstrated cancer-fighting properties. Dietary intake
of spinach has been found to be associated with lower risks of head and
neck, lung, gallbladder, stomach, liver, bladder, prostate, and ovarian can-
cers in population-based studies.
Botanical name: Allium cepa var. aggregatum
Shallots originated in Central or Southeast Asia and are extensively culti-
vated for culinary uses. The chemical constituents present in the shallot
are allyl methyl trisulfide, allyl methyl disulfide, diallyltrisulfide, and
diallyl sulfide. Shallots have been shown to possess antitumor, immu-
nomodulatory, and radioprotective effects in laboratory animals.
Botanical name: Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon
The snap pea is a cool-season vegetable belonging to the group of edible-
podded peas. Snap peas contain porphyrins and lectins and are known to
inhibit colon, gastric, and liver cancers.
Botanical name: Ipomoea batatas
The sweet potato is a tuber crop, native to Jamaica and other Caribbean
countries. Its active constituents are starch, phenols, β-carotene, and
ascorbic acid. Sweet potatoes possess hypoglycemic, anti-proliferative, and
antiradical activity. Known to inhibit liver and lung cancers, sweet pota-
toes have also been found to exert a protective effect against leukemia,
kidney, gallbladder, and breast cancers.
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50 C. Guruvayoorappan et al.
Botanical name: Cucurbita pepo
Summer squash, varieties of Cucurbita pepo, include cousa, pattypan, yellow
crookneck, and yellow summer squash, as well as astromboncino and zucchini.
Summer squash are rich in vitamin A and folate and are known to inhibit
human liver and colon cancer cells. See also section on ‘Winter Squash,’ below.
Botanical name: Physalis philadelphica
Tomatillo, a plant of the nightshade family, is native to the Mesoamerican
population and Mexico. According to scientific reports, 14 new com-
pounds were isolated from the wild tomatillo, including withaphysacarpin,
ixocarpanolide, philadelphicalactone-A, C, D, and ixocarpalactone. These
compounds these have potent anticancer effects in melanomas, thyroid,
head and neck squamous cell cancers, breast cancer, glioblastoma brain
tumors, and certain leukemias.
Botanical name: Solanum lycopersicum
The tomato is an edible fruit that is consumed in diverse ways — raw or
as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces, salads, and drinks. The major
chemicals present in tomatoes are rubijervine, solanine, lycopene, and
strigolactones. Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been found to prevent
prostate malignancies. Many scientific reports have shown that tomato
consumption is associated with a decreased risk of breast and head and
neck cancers, as well as an agent against neurodegenerative diseases.
Botanical name: Brassica rapa var. rapa
Turnip is a root vegetable that is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. It is rich in
lutein, which is known to inhibit colon, gastric, and liver cancers, as well
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An Overview 51
as leukemia. It is also known to inhibit gastric ulcers in experimental
Botanical name: Cucurbita species
Winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage. It contains
high amounts of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and vitamins A and C. The
different varieties of winter squash include ambercup, banana, buttercup,
hubbard, mooregold, cushaw, butternut, acorn, gem, and gold nugget
squash. Winter squash contains compounds such as cucurbitacins and is
known to prevent different cancers.
Above-mentioned are some of the important fruits and vegetables that
have shown potential in the prevention and treatment of cancer. However,
there are many edible fruits and vegetables found in the nature that have
not been studied for cancer prevention and treatment. Therefore, more
scientific studies are required for exploring their anticancer potential.
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