Lectins and Cancer [2023 Review]

Plant lectin impacts on cancer risks and treatments. A review through 2023.

Written by Keith Bishop, Clinical Nutritionist, B.Sc. Pharmacy, Author

Lectins are a type of protein found in many plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. According to a 2015 review out of China published in the Cell Proliferation, plant lectins can modify the expression of specific immune cells and alter signaling pathways to help kill off cancer cells and block tumor growth.[a]

Interestingly, some lectins are used to detect and diagnose cancer cells. Lectins manifest diverse activities, including inhibiting virus, and antitumor, antifungal, and anti-insect activities. Others are used for therapeutic purposes because of their anti-tumor activity and ability to trigger cancer cell death.[b]

Plant lectins attach to cancer cells and induce their cell death through autophagy (the body breaking down and consuming the cells) and/or apoptosis (normal cell death instead of prolonged growth)....

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