Green tea: a formidable weapon to prevent and fight against cancer

Regular consumption of green tea is associated with a reduced risk of developing several types of cancer. In particular those of the breast, lung, prostate and colon. Most of green tea’s protective effects are attributed to its high polyphenol content.

Specifically, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), the amounts of which can reach 200-300 mg in a single cup of green tea. This catechin is well absorbed and reaches sufficient plasma concentrations to interfere with several processes involved in tumor progression. Like the formation of a network of new blood vessels by tumors (angiogenesis), crucial for the development of cancer.

Green tea blocks cancer progression

According to recent research, low concentrations of EGCG, easily achievable by regular consumption of green tea, would block the progression of cancer by specifically targeting the tumor suppressor p53. P53 is often referred to as the “guardian of the genome” because of its crucial role in detecting and eliminating cells that are damaged. Whether as a result of the attacks of toxic molecules, the presence of errors which slip spontaneously into the DNA or even the activation of oncogenes.

To prevent these abnormal cells from becoming cancerous, p53 sets in motion a sophisticated control system that will attempt to repair the cellular damage that has been detected or, if this damage is irreversible, to force the cells to cause their own death by cell suicide (apoptosis). To become cancerous, abnormal cells therefore often have to find a way around this quality control system. It is for this reason that the presence of an inactivated p53 protein is a very frequent phenomenon observed in more than half of human cancers.

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Green tea supports our body’s natural anti-tumor activity

A strategy often employed by cancer cells to inactivate p53 is to overexpress a protein (MDM2) which interacts with this tumor suppressor and leads to its degradation. From a therapeutic point of view, one of the ways to restore the anti-cancer action of p53 is therefore to find molecules capable of preventing this p53-MDM2 interaction.

And that’s exactly where EGCG could come in handy: Using a technique that allows the interaction between proteins to be studied in detail (NMR spectroscopy), the researchers demonstrated that EGCG binds specifically to the same region of the p53 protein as that used by MDM2. By preventing the binding of this protein to p53, EGCG therefore prevents the degradation of the tumor suppressor and stabilizes its anticancer function. Under the anticancer effect of green tea observed in population studies, there is therefore a very solid molecular basis that goes far beyond the simple correlation of facts.

Green tea: a good habit to include in our daily life

This study therefore represents another example of the multiple benefits associated with the regular consumption of plants, such as green tea, which contain high amounts of polyphenols. Including these foods in our eating habits, especially when part of an overall healthy lifestyle that includes not smoking, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy body weight, is the best current strategy to prevent cancer.


Lamy S. et al: Green tea catechins inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor receptor phosphorylation, Cancer Res. 2002; 62: 381-5.

Zhao J. et al: EGCG binds intrinsically disordered N-terminal domain of p53 and disrupts p53-MDM2 interaction


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