β-glucans represent a heterogeneous group of naturally occurring and biologically active polysaccharides found in many kinds of edible mushrooms, baker’s yeast, cereals and seaweeds, whose health-promoting effects have been known since ancient times. These compounds can be taken orally as food supplements or as part of daily diets, and are safe to use, nonimmunogenic and well tolerated. A main feature of β-glucans is their capacity to function as biological response modifiers, exerting regulatory effects on inflammation and shaping the effector functions of different innate and adaptive immunity cell populations. The potential to interfere with processes involved in the development or control of cancer makes β-glucans interesting candidates as adjuvants in antitumor therapies as well as in cancer prevention strategies. Here, the regulatory effects of dietary β-glucans on human innate immunity cells are reviewed and their potential role in cancer control is discussed.
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