Green tea is an extremely popular beverage worldwide. Derivatives of green tea, particularly (-)epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have been proposed to have anticarcinogenic properties based on preclinical, observational, and clinical trial data. To summarize, clarify, and extend current knowledge, we conducted a comprehensive search of the PubMed database and other secondary data sources, as appropriate, regarding the chemopreventive potential of EGCG. Apparently, EGCG functions as an antioxidant, preventing oxidative damage in healthy cells, but also as an antiangiogenic agent, preventing tumors from developing a blood supply needed to grow larger. Furthermore, EGCG may stimulate apoptosis in cancerous cells by negatively regulating the cell cycle to prevent continued division. Finally, EGCG exhibits antibacterial activity, which may be implicated in the prevention of gastric cancer. Although in vitro research of the anticarcinogenic properties of EGCG seems promising, many diverse and unknown factors may influence its in vivo activity in animal and human models. Some epidemiological studies suggest that green tea compounds could protect against cancer, but existing data are inconsistent, and limitations in study design hinder full interpretation and generalizability of the published observational findings. Several clinical trials with green tea derivatives are ongoing, and further research should help to clarify the clinical potential of EGCG for chemoprevention and/or chemotherapy applications.
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