Targeting the epigenome with bioactive food components for cancer prevention.
Epigenetic processes participate in cancer development and likely influence cancer prevention. Global DNA hypomethylation, gene promoter hypermethylation and aberrant histone post-translational modifications are hallmarks of neoplastic cells which have been associated with genomic instability and altered gene expression. Because epigenetic deregulation occurs early in carcinogenesis and is potentially reversible, intervention strategies targeting the epigenome have been proposed for cancer prevention. Bioactive food components (BFCs) with anticancer potential, including folate, polyphenols, selenium, retinoids, fatty acids, isothiocyanates and allyl compounds, influence DNA methylation and histone modification processes. Such activities have been shown to affect the expression of genes involved in cell proliferation, death and differentiation that are frequently altered in cancer. Although the epigenome represents a promising target for cancer prevention with BFCs, few studies have addressed the influence of dietary components on these mechanisms in vivo, particularly on the phenotype of humans, and thus the exact mechanisms whereby diet mediates an effect on cancer prevention remains unclear. Primary factors that should be elucidated include the effective doses and dose timing of BFCs to attain epigenetic effects. Because diet-epigenome interactions are likely to occur in utero, the impact of early-life nutrition on cancer risk programming should be further investigated.