Purpose of review: To evaluate recent developments in nutritional epigenomics and related challenges, opportunities, and implications for cancer control and prevention.
Recent findings: Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and understanding the factors that contribute to cancer development may facilitate the development of strategies for cancer prevention and control. Cancer development involves genetic and epigenetic alterations. Genetic marks are permanent, whereas epigenetic marks are dynamic, change with age, and are influenced by the external environment. Thus, epigenetics provides a link between the environment, diet, and cancer development. Proper food selection is imperative for better health and to avoid cancer and other diseases. Nutrients either contribute directly to cancer prevention or support the repair of genomic and epigenomic damage caused by exposure to cancer-causing agents such as toxins, free radicals, radiation, and infectious agents. Nutritional epigenomics provides an opportunity for cancer prevention because selected nutrients have the potential to reverse cancer-associated epigenetic marks in different tumor types. A number of natural foods and their bioactive components have been shown to have methylation-inhibitory and deacetylation-inhibitory properties.
Summary: Natural foods and bioactive food components have characteristics and functions that are similar to epigenetic inhibitors and therefore have potential in cancer control and prevention.