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Although limited, observations from cell culture, animal, and epidemiological studies support the presence of anti-cancer properties in citrus peel and the primary bioactive food constituent, d-limonene. Early evidence from animal models suggests that when ingested, d-limonene exhibits a wide spectrum of biologic activity including chemotherapeutic and chemopreventive effects. In some of these early models, an analog of d-limonene, perillyl alcohol, demonstrated a more potent effect than d-limonene itself. Yet, when perillyl alcohol advanced to clinical trials, several trials were ended early due to doselimiting toxicities. Alternatively, oral d-limonene administration in humans is well tolerated even at high doses supporting its investigation as a potential bioactive for cancer prevention. Though the exact mechanisms of action of d-limonene are unclear, immune modulation and antiproliferative effects are commonly reported. Here, we review the pre-clinical evidence for d-limonene’s anticancer mechanisms, bioavailability, and safety, as well as the evidence for anti-cancer effects in humans, focusing on studies relevant to its use in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.
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