Oncology Reviews

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 31–42 | Cite as

d-Limonene: a bioactive food component from citrus and evidence for a potential role in breast cancer prevention and treatment

  • Jessica A. MillerEmail author
  • Patricia A. Thompson
  • Iman A. Hakim
  • H.-H. Sherry Chow
  • Cynthia A. Thomson


Although limited, observations from cell culture, animal, and epidemiological studies support the presence of anti-cancer properties in citrus peel and the primary bioactive food constituent, d-limonene. Early evidence from animal models suggests that when ingested, d-limonene exhibits a wide spectrum of biologic activity including chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive effects. In some of these early models, an analog of d-limonene, perillyl alcohol, demonstrated a more potent effect than d-limonene itself. Yet, when perillyl alcohol advanced to clinical trials, several trials were ended early due to dose-limiting toxicities. Alternatively, oral d-limonene administration in humans is well tolerated even at high doses supporting its investigation as a potential bioactive for cancer prevention. Though the exact mechanisms of action of d-limonene are unclear, immune modulation and anti-proliferative effects are commonly reported. Here, we review the pre-clinical evidence for d-limonene’s anti-cancer mechanisms, bioavailability, and safety, as well as the evidence for anti-cancer effects in humans, focusing on studies relevant to its use in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.


d-Limonene Breast cancer Bioactive food component Perillyl alcohol 


Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica A. Miller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patricia A. Thompson
    • 2
  • Iman A. Hakim
    • 2
    • 3
  • H.-H. Sherry Chow
    • 2
  • Cynthia A. Thomson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nutritional SciencesThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Arizona Cancer CenterThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public HealthThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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