Nutritional deficiencies are suspected to be contributing factors to several types of human cancers. Studies with laboratory animals have demonstrated that deficiencies in certain nutrients can enhance chemically induced carcinogenesis. In this review, we discuss several possible mechanisms for the involvement of nutritional deficiencies in carcinogenic processes, and note that different severities of deficiency may have varied effects on these processes. The relationship between results from studies with animals and the genesis of human cancer is discussed, and the application of the concept of nutrient density in relating experimental animal diets to human dietary conditions is emphasized. We also discuss in detail several recent studies that potentially may have a great impact on the prevention of human cancer. These include (1) the possible involvement of micronutrient deficiencies in carcinogenesis of the esophagus; (2) the effects of choline/methionine deprivation and calcium supplementation on liver carcinogenesis; and (3) the roles of low-calcium and high-fat intake on development of colon cancer. The possible mechanistic link between teratogenesis and carcinogenic processes is noted.
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