Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is derived from the breakdown of glucobrassicin, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables.
In the stomach, I3C molecules undergo acid-catalyzed condensation that generates a number of biologically active I3C oligomers, such as 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) and 5,11-dihydroindolo-[3,2-b]carbazole (ICZ).
I3C and DIM have been found to modulate the expression and activity of biotransformation enzymes that are involved in the metabolism and elimination of many biologically active compounds, including steroidhormones, drugs, carcinogens, and toxins.
Preclinical studies suggested that anti-estrogenic activities of I3C and DIM might help reduce the risk of hormone-dependent cancers. Although supplementation with I3C and DIM could alter urinary estrogen metabolite profiles in women, the effects of I3C and DIM on breast cancer risk are not known.
Preclinical studies showed that I3C and I3C oligomers could affect multiple signaling pathways that are dysregulated in cancer cells, such as those controlling cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, invasion, and angiogenesis.
Limited evidence from preliminary trials suggested that I3C supplementation may help treat conditions related to human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, such as cervical/vulvar intraepithelial neoplasias and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. However, randomized controlled trials are needed to determine whether I3C supplementation is beneficial.
The timing of I3C exposure in animal models of chemically-induced cancers seems to determine whether I3C inhibits or promotes the development of tumors. Some experts have cautioned against the widespread use of I3C and DIM supplements for cancer prevention in humans until their potential risks and benefits are better understood.
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