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Cancer Prevention: EGCG

tea plants three types of tea tea bag

Classified as:
Phytochemical, Polyphenol

structure of EGCG
Structure of EGCG

Intro and Background
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet, second only to water. (1) Green tea comes from the plant Camellia sinesis, an evergreen shrub of the Theaceae family. Green, black, and oolong teas all come from this same plant but differ in the way they are prepared. (2) Green tea is not allowed to ferment and so retains many of the beneficial properties of the tea plant. Many plants produce chemicals, called polyphenols, that protect them from environmental damage. The polyphenols epigallocatechin-3-gallate(EGCG) and epigallocatechin(EGC) are present in large amounts in green tea. (1) EGCG has antioxidant properties and reseach has shown ECGC to have some preventative effects against skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, liver, small intestine, pancreas, colon, bladder and breast cancers. (3) (4) Worldwide, tea is believed to have a number of other beneficial effects including improved blood flow, toxin elimination, increased resistance to diseases, cardiovascular health, lowering cholesterol, and fighting cancer. (1)

Scientific Evidence
Green tea polyphenols have been shown to prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals. DNA damage can cause cells to malfunction and lead to a number of health issues including cancer. Studies involving large populations of people suggest that drinking green tea may be associated with a lower risk of some cancer types. (5)

Please read our notice on CAM and chemoprevention methods.

There seem to be numerous ways that the chemicals in green tea may affect cancer cells and tumors. EGCG has been found to inhibit angiogenesis, proliferation, and metastasis and to stimulate apoptosis in cancerous cells. (6) (7) (5) (8) There have been numerous clinical trials to determine the ability of EGCG to prevent cancer. The results have been mixed. Several clinical trials have shown possible benefits in the prevention of prostate cancer. (9) (10) Some abdominal discomfort and fatigue was observed in these studies, most likely due to the caffeine present in green tea. (11) A study of Chinese women showed a decrease in digestive cancers (stomach, esophagus, colorectal, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder/bile duct cancers)among those women who drank green tea at least three times per week for 6 months or longer. Drinking more tea increased the benefit.(12)

Learn MORE about angiogenesis, apoptosis, metastasis and proliferation

For information about ongoing clinical trials involving EGCG, please visit our section on Finding Clinical Trials.

US Food and Drug Administration Approval
At this time there is not conclusive evidence that EGCG can effectively prevent cancer. For this reason, EGCG has not been approved for cancer prevention by the FDA.

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Last Modified: 11/01/2012 Print Email Page
References for this page:
  1. Cabrera C, Artacho R, Gimenez R. Beneficial effects of green tea--a review. J Am Coll Nutr. (2006) 2: 79-99 [PUBMED]
  2. Crespy V, Williamson G. A review of the health effects of green tea catechins in in vivo animal models. Journal of Nutrition (2004). 134: 3431-3440. [PUBMED]
  3. Moyers SB, Kumar NB. Green tea polyphenols and cancer chemoprevention: multiple mechanisms and endpoints for phase II trials. Nutrition Reveiws (2004). 62: 204-211 [PUBMED]
  4. Yang Cs, Landau JM, Huang MT, Newmark HL. Inhibition of carcinogenesis by dietary polyphenolic compounds. Annual Review of Nutrition (2001). 21: 381-406. [PUBMED]
  5. Paul B, Hayes CS, Kim A, Athar M, Gilmour SK. Elevated polyamines lead to selective induction of apoptosis and inhibition of tumorigensis by (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in ODC/Ras transgenic mice. Carcinogenesis (2005). 26: 119-124. [PUBMED]
  6. Jung YD, Kim MS, Shin BA, Chay KO, Ahn BW, Liu W, Bucana CD, Gallick GE, Ellis LM. EGCG, a major component of green tea, inhibits tumour growth by inhibiting VEGF induction in human colon carcinoma cells. British Journal of Cancer. (2001) 84(6):844-50 [PUBMED]
  7. Zhu BH, Zhan WH, Li ZR, Wang Z, He YL, Peng JS, Cai SR, Ma JP, Zhang CH. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate inhibits growth of gastric cancer by reducing VEGF production and angiogenesis. World Journal of Gastroenterology. (2007) 13(8): 1162-9. [PUBMED]
  8. Tang FY, nguyen N, Meydani M. Green tea catechins inhibit VEGF-induced angiogenesis in vitro through suppression of VE-cadherin phosphorylation and inactivation of Akt molecule. International Journal of Cancer (2003). 106: 871-878 [PUBMED]
  9. E. Choan, R. Segal, D. Jonker, S. Malone, N. Reaume, L. Eapen and V. Gallant. A prospective trial of green tea for hormone refractory prostate cancer: an evaluation of the complementary/alternative therapy approach. Urologic Oncology. (2005) 23: 108113. [PUBMED]
  10. A. Jatoi, N. Ellison, P.A. Burch, J.A. Sloan, S.R. Dakhil, P. Sovotny, W. Tan, T.R. Fitch, K.M. Rowland, C.Y.F. Young and P.J. Flynn. A Phase II clinical trial of green tea in the treatment of patients with androgen independent metastatic prostate carcinoma. Cancer. 97 (2003), pp. 14421446 [PUBMED]
  11. Nechuta S, Shu XO, Li HL, Yang G, Ji BT, Xiang YB, Cai H, Chow WH, Gao YT, Zheng W. Prospective cohort study of tea consumption and risk of digestive system cancers: results from the Shanghai Women's Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Nov;96(5):1056-63. Epub 2012 Oct 10. [http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/96/5/1056] [PUBMED]
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