Volume 33, Issues 3–4, December 1984, Pages 185-228

Review paper
Synthetic antioxidants: Biochemical actions and interference with radiation, toxic compounds, chemical mutagens and chemical carcinogens rights and content


Biological actions of 4 commonly used synthetic antioxidants — butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene, ethoxquin and propul gallate — on the molecular, cellular and organ level are compiled. Such actions may be divided into modulation of growth, macromolecule synthesis and differentiation, modulation of immune response, interference with oxygen activation and miscellaneous. Moreover, an overview of beneficial and adverse interactions of these antioxidants with exogenous noxae is given. Beneficial interactions include radioprotection, protection against acute toxicity of chemicals, antimutagenic activity and antitumorigenic action. Possible mechanisms of the antitumorigenic action of antioxidants are discussed. This discussion is centered around antioxidant properties which may contribute to a modulation of initiation-related events, especially their ability to interfere with carcinogen metabolism. The beneficial interactions of antioxidant with physical and chemical noxae are contrasted to those leading to unfavorable effects. These include radiosensitization, increased toxicity of other chemicals, increased mutagen activity and increased tumor yield from chemical carcinogens. At present, the latter one can most adequately be characterized as tumor at least in the case of butylated hydroxytoluene. It is concluded that current information is insufficient to promote expectations as to the use of antioxidants in the prevention of human cancer.

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This work was supported by a grant of the Deutsche Froschungsgemeischaft, Bonn, F.R.G.


Present address: Max von Pettenkofer-Institut, Bundesgesundheitsamt, Postfach 33 00 13, D-1000 Berlin 33, F.R.G.

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