Essential oils, flavors, and spices constitute a large and heterogeneous groups of substances to which humans are exposed. The essential oils are defined as a group of odorous principles soluble in alcohol and only to a limited extent in water. They consist of a mixture of esters, aldehydes, ketones, and terpenes. Relatively few members of this group of substances have been shown to cause cancer in animals. This paper summarizes knowledge on the carcinogenic activity of safrole, citrus oils (d-limonene), turpentine oil (l-pinene), eucalyptus oil (phellandrene), bergamot oil, and red pepper. The possible role of polycyclic hydrocarbons biosynthesized in plants is also discussed.


This investigation was supported by USPHS Research Grant No. CA-05230 from the National Cancer Institute, and by American Cancer Society Grant No. E-469.

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