Protease Inhibitors: Their Role as Modifiers of Carcinogenic Processes

  • Walter Troll
  • Krystyna Frenkel
  • Rakoma Wiesner
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 199)


Nutrition may play a pivotal role in helping to prevent major diseases in man. For example, some constituents of our diet contribute to the prevention of cancer, whereas others have the opposite effect. Therefore, what we eat may contribute to our survival or to our demise. Evolution has not been selective in favor of the longevity of any particular species, including man. The increasing life span of man was accomplished by medical successes such as the elimination of infectious diseases through the use of antibiotics and vaccines. However, these measures have had only limited success in combating the two major causes of death in man — heart failure and cancer. Here, it is an appropriate nutrition which may offer opportunities to prevent them. The evidence for this has come from epidemiological studies which show that these diseases are directly related to the quantity of meat which is consumed. Meat is the major source of fat and protein in our diet. Thus, the Western diet, which consists of a high proportion of meat and fat, and a low proportion of vegetables, appears to contribute to a higher occurrence of breast, colon and prostate cancers (Tannenbaum and Silverstone, 1953; Wynder et al., 1971; Armstrong and Doll, 1975; Carroll, 1975; Phillips, 1975; Correa, 1981; Enstrom, 1981; Appleton and Campbell, 1983). In contrast, diets rich in certain vegetables such as rice, maize and beans, lower the incidence of these cancers (Correa, 1981). Plant seeds contain high concentrations of protease inhibitors which are particularly effective in inhibiting digestive enzymes of insects (Birk, 1974). Even in processed foods such as breads and cereals, seeds are still active in preventing cancer as has been shown by a lower incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancers in populations consuming such diets (Winn et al., 1984). These findings were corroborated by model animal experiments in which diets containing protease inhibitors inhibited the carcinogenic process(es). Among protease inhibitors, the heat-stable Bowman-Birk inhibitor isolated from soybeans was found to be one of the most potent in preventing colon cancer in mice (A. Kennedy, personal communication).


Pancreatic Cancer Protease Inhibitor Chronic Granulomatous Disease Tumor Promotion Mouse Skin 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter Troll
    • 1
  • Krystyna Frenkel
    • 1
  • Rakoma Wiesner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental MedicineNew York University Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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