Zinc in Cancer Development and Prevention

  • Louise Y.Y. Fong
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)

Key Points

1. Zinc is an essential trace element required for maintaining enzyme activity, the immune system, and the conformation of many transcription factors that control cell proliferation, apoptosis, and signaling pathways. The role of zinc in cancer development and prevention is gaining attention.

2. Compelling evidence from epidemiological, clinical, and rodent studies shows that dietary zinc deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal and oral cancer.

3. Zinc has similar tumor suppressor effects in esophageal and oral tumors as well as several other types of tumor. Additionally, zinc supplementation has beneficial effects in several diseases in the elderly who are zinc deficiency-prone, including diseases related to dysregulation of the inflammatory/immune response.

4. The concept of zinc as a tumor suppressor agent in cancer prevention is supported by abundant experimental and clinical studies in esophageal, lingual, prostate, and colon cancer. Recent data from gene profiling and immunohistochemical analyses, showing that zinc regulates the proinflammation mediator S100A8 expression, its interaction with RAGE, and the downstream NF-κB-COX-2 signaling pathway, provide the first evidence for an inflammation-modulating role of zinc in early esophageal carcinogenesis and its reversal.

5. Given the recent reignited interest of researchers in the concept of an association of inflammation and the genesis and perpetuation of cancer, the finding that zinc regulates a key inflammation pathway and modulates miRNA expression in esophageal preneoplasia offers opportunities to conduct studies to more precisely define the role of zinc in cancer initiation, progression, and prevention and also to explore the possible link between microRNA expression and inflammation.

6. The finding that targeting only the COX-2 pathway in zinc-deficient animals does not prevent UADT tumor progression strongly suggests that correcting nutritional deficiencies is necessary in a more successful cancer treatment protocol.

Key Words

Zinc deficiency zinc supplementation esophageal and oral cancer cancer prevention antitumor effects of zinc gene and microRNA expression profiling apoptosis cell proliferation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louise Y.Y. Fong
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology and Experimental TherapeuticsKimmel Cancer Center, Thomas Jefferson UniversityPennsylvaniaUSA

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