Orange and Cancer

Orange is a citrus fruit, of various species of trees of the Family Rutaceae or hybrids of it. Therefore, there are several types, mainly blood orange and bitter orange. It is the fourth most cultivated fruit in the world.

Bitter orange (Sour Orange), Seville orange, Bigarade orange, or Marmalade orange

Among these varieties, the most familiar to us in the United States is the sweet orange. Less known, the bitter orange and Seville orange, are seldom consumed fresh. They are mostly used in traditional medicine, and in sauces, syrups and jellies. The flowers of sour orange, as well as its immature fruits, are especially aromatic. They are used in perfumery and in the preparation of many dishes and liqueurs. But this article is about orange and cancer treatment; let’s remain focus.

Orange Juice and Cancer Prevention

Orange juice contains high antioxidant content, 56% to 77% come from the vitamin C of the juice. Consumption in its natural form considerably increases the concentration of vitamin C in the blood and thus participates in the reduction of oxidative stress. This would help to prevent certain chronic conditions such as different types of cancers. Furthermore, researchers found that a low intake of orange and other fruits rich in vitamin C can lead to poorer lung function in some children.

Among important nutrients contained orange that help fight cancer includes Flavonoids, Limonoids, Carotenoids, and Citric acid.


Orange contains different types of flavonoids. The body uses these antioxidant compounds to neutralize the free radicals and thereby prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other chronic diseases. Hesperetin is the main flavonoid in orange. It is found in large quantities in the white part of the skin and membranes of the fruit, as well as in smaller concentration in the juice and the seeds. In addition, the fruit also contains Naringenin.

Naringenin is a flavonoid also presents in orange, but orange juice contains about 5 times less than hesperetin. Nevertheless, concentrate orange juice would contains more flavonoids than fresh orange juice, the fact that industrial milling methods using the whole fruit. Bigarade, in the other hand, contains mainly naringenin, but also of hesperetin and eriocitrin. These free radical scavengers work together to make it difficult for cancer cells to develop or reproduce.

According to various studies conducted in humans and in animals, hesperetin and its metabolites may inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells, improve endothelial function (elasticity of blood vessels), and decrease blood pressure, triglycerides and blood cholesterol. In humans, the researchers observed inverse relationship between consumption of flavonoids and the incidence of chronic diseases. Studies also show citrus flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties. They inhibit the synthesis and activity of certain mediators involved in inflammation which tumor tumors needs to form and grow.

Some Anticancer Nutrients of Orange


The two main limonoids contained citrus fruits are the limonene and nomiline. They are found mainly in the seeds, but also in the juice. Depending on their type, they are tasteless, thus unable to cause the bitter taste of the fruit. According to some studies, Limonine, and other limonoids present in citrus juices, would, lower blood cholesterol in animals.

The two compounds could also result in apoptosis of neuroblastoma cancer cells. Other studies suggest that citrus limonoids could prevent some types of cancer in animals. For example, obacunone, a type of limonoid, proved effective in reducing the incidence of colon cancer and to decrease the number of cancers in the mouth. However, there is currently no data on a similar effect in humans. The synergistic action of several limonoids between themselves or with other compounds (such as flavonoids) could accentuate their action on cancer cells, causing them to commit suicide.


Orange contains significant quantities of various carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, a powerful natural antioxidant that protects the eyes and some other organs. Consumption of foods rich in carotenoids is linked to a lower risk for several diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, although some studies on the subject are controversial.

Oranges also contain Beta Cryptoxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radicals from damaging healthy cells and their DNA. An epidemiological study has shown that the greater the consumption of this type of carotenoid is, the lower would be the risk of suffering from inflammatory disease. To get the beneficial effects, the scientists recommend about one glass (about 250 ml) of orange juice per day.

Citric Acid 

The concentration of citric acid in orange juice is high, about 10 mg per gram of juice; its consumption alkalizes urine. According to a study, drinking 2 cups (500 mL) of orange juice caused, in women, alkalinization of urine for 24 hours. Orange juice could thus be effective in reducing the risk of urolithiasis (formation of stones in the kidney, bladder, and/or urethra) and increasing poison elimination.

Orange Juice and Cancer Prevention

Several studies have shown that consumption of citrus fruits, including orange, would be linked to the prevention of certain cancers such as esophageal cancerstomach cancer, colon cancer, as well as cancers of mouth and pharynx. According to one of them, moderate citrus consumption, 1 to 4 servings per week, would reduce the risk of cancers related to the digestive tract and upper respiratory system.  A population-based study suggests that daily consumption of citrus combined with high consumption of green tea, 1 cup or more per day, is associated with a greater reduction in the incidence of malignant tumors.

Orange Juice and Cancer Chemoprevention 

Limonoids, anticancer compounds antioxidants in citrus, have been showed cytotoxic effect in vitro and in animal models. They could reduce the proliferation of breast cancer cells, as well as malignant cells in the stomach, lung, mouth, and colon. Orange cancer fighting properties also help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting.

Sources :  


  1. Steinmetz KA, Potter JD.Vegetables, fruit, and cancer prevention: a review.J Am Diet Assoc 1996 October;96(10):1027-39.
    2. Bazzano LA, Serdula MK, Liu S. Dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and risk of cardiovascular diseaseCurr Atheroscler Rep 2003 November;5(6):492-9.
    3. Chainani-Wu N. Diet and oral, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancerNutr Cancer 2002;44(2):104-26.
    4. Kim HJ, Chang WK, et alDietary factors and gastric cancer in Korea: a case-control studyInt J Cancer 2002 February 1;97(4):531-5.
    5. Garg A, Garg S, et alChemistry and pharmacology of the Citrus bioflavonoid hesperidinPhytother Res 2001 December;15(8):655-69.
    6. Erlund I, Meririnne E, et alPlasma kinetics and urinary excretion of the flavanones naringenin and hesperetin in humans after ingestion of orange juice and grapefruit juiceJ Nutr 2001 February;131(2):235-41.
    7. So FV, Guthrie N, et alInhibition of human breast cancer cell proliferation and delay of mammary tumorigenesis by flavonoids and citrus juicesNutr Cancer 1996;26(2):167-81.
    8. Ohtsuki K, Abe A, et alEffects of long-term administration of hesperidin and glucosyl hesperidin to spontaneously hypertensive ratsJ Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo) 2002 October;48(5):420-2.
    9. Cha JY, Cho YS, et alEffect of hesperetin, a citrus flavonoid, on the liver triacylglycerol content and phosphatidate phosphohydrolase activity in orotic acid-fed ratsPlant Foods Hum Nutr 2001;56(4):349-58.
    10. Kim HK, Jeong T-S, et alLipid-lowering efficacy of hesperetin metabolites in high-cholesterol fed ratsClinica Chimica Acta 2003;327:129-37.
    11. Choi GS, Lee S, Jeong TS et alEvaluation of hesperetin 7-O-lauryl ether as lipid-lowering agent in high-cholesterol-fed ratsBioorg Med Chem 2004 July 1;12(13):3599-605.
    12. Miller EG, Porter JL, et alFurther studies on the anticancer activity of citrus limonoidsJ Agric Food Chem 2004 July 28;52(15):4908-12.
    13. Lam LKT, Hasegawa S, et al. Limonin and nomilin inhibitory effects on chemical-induced tumorigenesis. In: Berhow MA, Hasegawa S, Manners GD, editors. Citrus Limonoids Functional Chemicals in Agriculture and Foods. American Chemical Society ed. Washington, DC: 2000. p. 185-200.
    14. Yu J, Wang L, et alAntioxidant activity of citrus limonoids, flavonoids, and coumarinsJ Agric Food Chem 2005 March 23;53(6):2009-14.
    15. Tian Q, Miller EG, et alDifferential inhibition of human cancer cell proliferation by citrus limonoidsNutr Cancer 2001;40(2):180-4.
    16. Poulose SM, Harris ED, Patil BS. Citrus limonoids induce apoptosis in human neuroblastoma cells and have radical scavenging activityJ Nutr 2005 April;135(4):870-7.
    17. Miller EG, Gonzales-Sanders AP, et al. Citrus limonoids as inhibitors of oral carcinogenesis. Food Technol 1994;48:110-4.
    18. Tanaka T, Kohno H, Tsukio Y et al. Citrus limonoids obacunone and limonin inhibit azoxymethane-induced colon carcinogenesis in rats.Biofactors 2000;13(1-4):213-8.
    19. Kurowska EM, Banh C, et al. Regulation of apo B production in HepG2 cells by citrus limonoids. In: Berhow MA, Hasegawa S, Manners GD, editors.Citrus Limonoids Functional Chemicals in Agriculture and Foods. American Chemical Society ed. Washington, DC: 2000. p. 175-84.
    20. Raphael TJ, Kuttan G. Effect of naturally occurring triterpenoids glycyrrhizic acid, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid and nomilin on the immune system.Phytomedicine 2003;10(6-7):483-9.
    21. Sanchez-Moreno C, Cano MP, et alHigh-pressurized orange juice consumption affects plasma vitamin C, antioxidative status and inflammatory markers in healthy humansJ Nutr 2003 July;133(7):2204-9.
    22. Ito Y, Kurata M, et alCardiovascular disease mortality and serum carotenoid levels: a Japanese population-based follow-up studyJ Epidemiol 2006;16:154-60.
    23. Douglas RM, Hemila H, et alVitamin C for preventing and treating the common coldCochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;(4):CD000980.
    24. Pattison DJ, Silman AJ, et alVitamin C and the risk of developing inflammatory polyarthritis: prospective nested case-control studyAnn Rheum Dis 2004 July;63(7):843-7.
    25. Gilliland FD, Berhane KT, et alChildren’s lung function and antioxidant vitamin, fruit, juice, and vegetable intakeAm J Epidemiol 2003 September 15;158(6):576-84.
    26. Stahl W, Sies H. Bioactivity and protective effects of natural carotenoidsBiochim Biophys Acta 2005 May 30;1740(2):101-7.
    27. Pattison DJ, Symmons DP, et alDietary beta-cryptoxanthin and inflammatory polyarthritis: results from a population-based prospective studyAm J Clin Nutr 2005 August;82(2):451-5.
    28. Johnston CS, Bowling DL. Stability of ascorbic acid in commercially available orange juicesJ Am Diet Assoc 2002 April;102(4):525-9.
    29. Gil-Izquierdo A, Gil MI, Ferreres F. Effect of processing techniques at industrial scale on orange juice antioxidant and beneficial health compoundsJ Agric Food Chem 2002 August 28;50(18):5107-14.
    30. He FJ, Nowson CA, et alIncreased consumption of fruit and vegetables is related to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: meta-analysis of cohort studies. J Hum Hypertens 2007;21:717-28.
    31. Soerjomataram I, Oomen D, et alIncreased consumption of fruit and vegetables and future cancer incidence in selected European countriesEur J Cancer 2010;46:2563-80.
    32. Harding AH, Wareham NJ, et alPlasma vitamin C level, fruit and vegetable consumption, and the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes mellitus: the European prospective investigation of cancer–Norfolk prospective studyArch Intern Med 2008;168:1493-9.
    33. Bae JM, Lee EJ, Guyatt G. Citrus fruit intake and stomach cancer risk: a quantitative systematic review. Gastric Cancer 2008;11:23-32.
    34. Li WQ, Kuriyama S, Li Q et alCitrus consumption and cancer incidence: the Ohsaki cohort studyInt.J.Cancer 2010;127:1913-22.
    35. Foschi R, Pelucchi C, Dal ML et alCitrus fruit and cancer risk in a network of case-control studiesCancer Causes Control 2010;21:237-42.

Leave a Reply