Effect of phytoestrogen and antioxidant supplementation on oxidative DNA damage assessed using the comet assay

J. Sierens, J.A. Hartley, M.J. Campbell, Claire Leathem, Jayne Woodside

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)


Antioxidant species may act in vivo to decrease oxidative damage to DNA, protein and lipids thus reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds which are a major component of traditional Asian diets and which may be protective against certain hormone-dependent cancers (breast and prostate) and against coronary heart disease. They may also be able to function as antioxidants, scavenging potentially harmful free radicals. In this study, the effects of the isoflavonoids (a class of phytoestrogen) genistein and equol on hydrogen peroxide-mediated DNA damage in human lymphocytes were determined using alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (the comet assay). Treatment with hydrogen peroxide significantly increased the levels of DNA strand breaks. Pre-treatment of the cells with both genistein and equol offered protection against this damage at concentrations within the physiological range. This protection was greater than that offered by addition of the known antioxidant vitamins ascorbic acid and alpha -tocopherol, or the compounds 17 beta -oestradiol and Tamoxifen which have similar structures to isoflavonoids and are known to have weak antioxidant properties. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that phytoestrogens can, under certain conditions, function as antioxidants and protect against oxidatively-induced DNA damage. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-176
Number of pages8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 07 Mar 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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