Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second and third most frequent cancer in
women and men, respectively; indeed, CRC is placed as the fourth world's most deadly cancer (after
lung, liver, and stomach cancer). The incidence of CRC is strongly influenced by nutrition and the high
fat/high carbohydrate Western-style diet. CRC is one of the most intensively studied cancer types, partly
because of its high prevalence, but also because of the existence of its precursor lesions, tubular or
villous adenomas, and more recently serrated adenomas. The morphological steps in the adenomacarcinoma
sequence have been elucidated at a molecular level, which allow the identification of the
genes responsible for CRC.
Review and Conclusions: The main aim of this review is to provide data regarding the pathophysiological
characteristics, molecular mechanisms as well as carcinogenic and chemopreventive agents for
CRC, with emphasis on evidence supporting their efficacy. These compounds may modulate multiple
signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation and apoptosis in transformed cells, they also enhance
the host immune system and favor an effective treatment. Despite promising results from experimental
studies, only a limited number of these compounds have been tested in clinical trials. The mechanistic
spectrum and specificity of the action of phytochemicals represent a complex and evolving field of research.