Therapeutic and preventive properties of honey and its bioactive compounds in cancer: An evidence-based review

Sadia Afrin, Shoja M. Haneefa, Maria J. Fernandez-Cabezudo, Francesca Giampieri, Basel K. Al-Ramadi, Maurizio Battino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the much improved therapeutic approaches for cancer treatment that have been developed over the past 50 years, cancer remains a major cause of mortality globally. Considerable epidemiological and experimental evidence has demonstrated an association between ingestion of food and nutrients with either an increased risk for cancer or its prevention. There is rising interest in exploring agents derived from natural products for chemoprevention or for therapeutic purposes. Honey is rich in nutritional and non-nutritional bioactive compounds, as well as in natural antioxidants, and its potential beneficial function in human health is becoming more evident. A large number of studies have addressed the anti-cancer effects of different types of honey and their phenolic compounds using in vitro and in vivo cancer models. The reported findings affirm that honey is an agent able to modulate oxidative stress and has anti-proliferative, pro-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory and anti-metastatic properties. However, despite its reported anti-cancer activities, very few clinical studies have been undertaken. In the present review, we summarise the findings from different experimental approaches, including in vitro cell cultures, preclinical animal models and clinical studies, and provide an overview of the bioactive profile and bioavailability of the most commonly studied honey types, with special emphasis on the chemopreventive and therapeutic properties of honey and its major phenolic compounds in cancer. The implications of these findings as well as the future prospects of utilising honey to fight cancer will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-76
Number of pages27
JournalNutrition Research Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Antioxidant activity
  • Bioavailability
  • Cancer
  • Chemoprevention
  • Flavonoids
  • Honey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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