Quercetin, a medicinally important member of the flavonoid family, is one of the most prominent dietary antioxidants. It is present in a variety of foods—including fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, as well as other dietary supplements—and is responsible for various health benefits. Numerous pharmacological effects of quercetin include protection against diseases, such as osteoporosis, certain forms of malignant tumors, and pulmonary and cardiovascular disorders. Quercetin has the special ability of scavenging highly reactive species, such as hydrogen peroxide, superoxide anion, and hydroxyl radicals. These oxygen radicals are called reactive oxygen species, which can cause oxidative damage to cellular components, such as proteins, lipids, and deoxyribonucleic acid. Various oxygen radicals play important roles in pathophysiological and degenerative processes, such as aging. Subsequently, several studies have been performed to evaluate possible advantageous health effects of quercetin and to collect scientific evidence for these beneficial health claims. These studies also gather data in order to evaluate the exact mechanism(s) of action and toxicological effects of quercetin. The purpose of this review is to present and critically analyze molecular pathways underlying the anticancer effects of quercetin. Current limitations and future directions of research on this bioactive dietary polyphenol are also critically discussed.
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