Green tea (GT) and green tea extracts (GTE) have been postulated to decrease cancer incidence. In vitro results indicate a possible effect; however, epidemiological data do not support cancer chemoprevention. We have performed a PubMED literature search for green tea consumption and the correlation to the common tumor types lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, esophageal and gastric cancer, with cohorts from both Western and Asian countries. We additionally included selected mechanistical studies for a possible mode of action. The comparability between studies was limited due to major differences in study outlines; a meta analysis was thus not possible and studies were evaluated individually. Only for breast cancer could a possible small protective effect be seen in Asian and Western cohorts, whereas for esophagus and stomach cancer, green tea increased the cancer incidence, possibly due to heat stress. No effect was found for colonic/colorectal and prostatic cancer in any country, for lung cancer Chinese studies found a protective effect, but not studies from outside China. Epidemiological studies thus do not support a cancer protective effect. GT as an indicator of as yet undefined parameters in lifestyle, environment and/or ethnicity may explain some of the observed differences between China and other countries.
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