Life Extension Magazine®

Smog hanging over city that contribute to environmental carcinogens that damage DNA

Protect Yourself From Environmental Cancer

We are surrounded by toxic environmental factors that contribute to as many as 80 to 90% of all cancer cases. Studies show that chlorophyllin neutralizes environmental carcinogens and binds to dietary mutagens, excreting them from the body before they damage DNA.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Amanda Martin, DC, in May 2022. Written by: Gina Battaglia.

Protect Yourself From Environmental Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one out of every four deaths.1 Researchers estimate that lifestyle and environmental factors may contribute to approximately 90% of cancer cases!2,3

On a daily basis, we are exposed to a rapidly growing list of carcinogens in the environment. The sources of these carcinogens range from cigarette smoke and cooked meat to pesticides and plastic packaging.3,4-7 These chemicals damage DNA and disrupt proper cell communication,8,9 potentially leading to tumor formation.

With contamination of our food, air, and water, it’s impossible to completely avoid environmental carcinogens.10,11 The best course of action is to arm ourselves with something that can neutralize the carcinogens, thereby protecting our DNA and ultimately preventing cancer.

Scientists have studied and identified an effective neutralizer in chlorophyllin, a substance derived from chlorophyll, the pigment in plants that gives them their green color.

In this article, you will learn how chlorophyllin protects your body from cancer-causing agents, promotes growth of healthy cells, and acts as a potential co-therapeutic agent to improve treatment and health in cancer patients.

How Chlorophyllin Works

Chlorophyllin’s special cancer-fighting properties stem from its ability to bind to mutagenic substances and excrete them from the body before they can do any damage.12 In fact, a study reported in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health reported that chlorophyllin binds to certain mutagens 20 times better than resveratrol.13

Carcinogens interfere with normal cell growth by binding to DNA and creating DNA adducts, which are pieces of DNA bonded to a cancer-causing chemical. Evidence in laboratory animals shows that these adducts contribute to cancer by causing extensive and irreversible DNA damage.14,15

Chlorophyllin helps protect against cancer by attaching itself to and degrading these damaging substances,16 which prevents them from inducing mutations in DNA.17 In this way, chlorophyllin acts as an interceptor molecule by isolating carcinogens so that they cannot form dangerous DNA adducts.

Potent Cancer Inhibitor

Potent Cancer Inhibitor  

Studies in both animals and humans demonstrate chlorophyllin’s ability to bind to carcinogens and remove them from the body.

Rainbow trout have been used for over 40 years as an experimental model for testing the effects of environmental factors on cancer.18,19 In one recent study, researchers found that chlorophyllin stopped the formation of tumors in the stomach and liver of trout that had been induced by a leading cancer-causing agent known as DBP (dibenzo[a,l]pyrene).20 DBP, a compound found in cigarette smoke and coal tar, is one of the most potent environmental carcinogens known.21

In this study, chlorophyllin reduced the amount of DBP in the liver by up to 63%. The researchers attribute these findings to chlorophyllin’s remarkable ability to bind to DBP in cell culture and suggest that chlorophyllin has cancer-preventing properties across multiple organs.

Evidence suggests these potent anticancer properties of chlorophyllin are also beneficial in humans. In a recent study, researchers fed human subjects a diet containing meat cooked at a high temperature (i.e. full of carcinogens).22 When researchers added cancer inhibitors—a combination of chlorophyllin tablets, cruciferous vegetables, and yogurt—to the diet, the subjects’ bodies excreted more of the damaging compounds through their urine and feces compared to when they ate the meat without the inhibitors.

Furthermore, the inhibitors also reduced DNA damage in colorectal cells cultured in a dish by nearly two-fold! The authors indicate that studying the effects of each of the inhibitors separately will help clarify the degree to which chlorophyllin protects the cells against DNA damage.22

What You Need To Know
Chlorophyllin Protects Against Environmental Carcinogens

Chlorophyllin Protects Against Environmental Carcinogens

  • Carcinogens cause DNA damage that can lead to the formation of tumors.
  • Chlorophyllin protects healthy cells from DNA damage by binding to carcinogens and increasing their removal from the body.
  • In addition, chlorophyllin inhibits the growth of cancer cells, reduces oxidative damage, supports the immune system, and can boost the effectiveness of cancer drugs.
  • The photosensitizing effects of chlorophyllin make it a viable low-cost agent to use in photodynamic therapy, a new treatment for small, local tumors near the surface of the skin or internal organ lining.

Chlorophyllin Protects Against Liver Damage

Chlorophyllin’s DNA-protecting mechanisms have been studied extensively in relation to a fungal toxin known as AFB1 (aflatoxin B1). This “natural” contaminant is abundant in corn, peanuts, soy sauce, fermented soy beans, and other food crops grown in sub-Saharan African and Asian countries, and is one of the most carcinogenic substances known.23-25

When these contaminated foods are eaten, AFB1 is broken down in the liver to a deadly carcinogenic product that binds to and mutates DNA.26-28This drastically increases the risk of a specific type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma, especially in individuals with hepatitis B.29,30

To determine if chlorophyllin’s “interceptor” role could help protect against liver cancer, scientists studied individuals living in the Qidong region of China.31 Here, residents are unavoidably exposed to high AFB1 levels, and suffer high mortality rates due to liver cancer.31,32

When individuals took 100 mg of chlorophyllin three times per day before meals for three months, it led to a 55% decrease in the levels of a urine compound (aflatoxin-N7-guanine) that indicates AFB1-induced DNA damage, compared to individuals who took a placebo.12,31 Previous research has indicated that levels of this urine compound are also highly associated with liver cancer risk.29

The scientists didn’t stop there. They dug deeper to prove whether chlorophyllin directly inhibited AFB1 absorption into the body. To determine this, they gave four human volunteers a low dose (30 ng) of AFB1 that had been labeled with a radioactive “tag” to track the chemical’s path, and then took blood and urine samples for 72 hours.29

When the volunteers took a 150 mg dose of chlorophyllin along with the AFB1, AFB1 absorption rate into the bloodstream decreased drastically and the urine output of the AFB1-induced DNA damage compound was reduced. Although more volunteers need to be tested to confirm these results, these data further support the hypothesis that chlorophyllin reduces AFB1 absorption by the body.33

Once scientists knew that chlorophyllin could reduce the absorption of AFB1, they took the research a step further to find out if the protective effects of chlorophyllin against DNA damage would contribute to reduced liver tumor formation.

In order to determine this, researchers gave rats AFB1 plus chlorophyllin (250 mg/kg body weight) five times per day for three days, while other rats were given AFB1 plus a placebo.34 Compared to rats given AFB1 and a placebo, the rats given AFB1 along with chlorophyllin had a 42% reduction in liver DNA adducts and a 137% increase in fecal AFB1 content, further indicating that chlorophyllin increases the AFB1 excretion from the body to reduce DNA damage.

Furthermore, the study found that giving this amount of chlorophyllin to the exposed rats for 10 days reduced AFB1-induced precancerous lesions in the liver as well as in the colon. All of this points to the fact that chlorophyllin protects these vital organs and reduces tumor formation by increasing the removal of this toxic chemical from the body.34

However, it’s important to note that when chlorophyllin was given after AFB1-induced liver cancer was initiated, it did not significantly inhibit tumor progression in one study,35 suggesting the effects of chlorophyllin may be stronger when it is given earlier in the tumor-initiating process.

Chlorophyllin Inhibits The Growth Of Some Cancer Cells

We’ve already seen that chlorophyllin can protect against cancer by binding to and eliminating harmful carcinogens from the body. In addition, chlorophyllin has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells through three important mechanisms:

  1. Chlorophyllin may be able to halt the proliferation of deadly tumors specifically by inducing the death of cancerous cells. A study published in Cancer Research found that treating human colon cancer cells with various concentrations (0.0625-0.5 mM) of chlorophyllin for 24 hours promoted “cell suicide” (apoptosis) in these cells by interacting with “death receptors” on the membrane surface of cancer cells.36 Chlorophyllin is generally nontoxic in normal tissue,37,38 and researchers observed that chlorophyllin may be able to selectively trigger death in cancer cells while maintaining normal cell growth.39
  2. Chlorophyllin helps prevent cancer cells from spreading (metastasis). In a study of cultured human colon cancer cells, researchers determined that chlorophyllin increases the expression of a protein called E-cadherin, which coordinates cell growth by allowing the cells to communicate with one another.36,40 High levels of E-cadherin are important for decreasing cancer-cell invasion and metastasis,40 as dysfunction of E-cadherin inhibits cell-to-cell communication and was linked with uncontrolled cell growth.41,42
  3. Chlorophyllin helps reduce tumor formation. It does this by inhibiting angiogenesis, the process of developing new blood vessels from existing ones, which increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to tumors.43 The increase in blood vessel formation promotes the dangerous, possibly deadly spread of tumor cells throughout the body.44 In a hamster model of oral cancer, a daily dose of 4 mg/kg body weight of chlorophyllin for 14 weeks reduced the expression of several proteins involved in angiogenesis in the cheek pouches of the animals.45 In this study, the lower content of angiogenesis proteins was also associated with reduced tumor formation in the hamster cheek pouches, further indicating the compound’s ability to halt the progression of cancer by mitigating tumor-related angiogenesis.

Chlorophyllin Reduces Oxidative Damage

Chlorophyllin Reduces Oxidative Damage  

Another important way chlorophyllin helps prevent cancer is by helping defend the body against oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Like the smoke from a fire, free radicals are a byproduct that our bodies produce when we burn fuel for energy. They also come from environmental pollutants, radiation, and chemical agents. Although your body has natural defense systems in place to eliminate these harmful free radicals, excessive free-radical production overwhelms these defense systems, leading to extensive DNA damage that causes cancer.46

Research has shown that chlorophyllin is capable of scavenging a wide variety of reactive oxygen species (a type of free radical containing oxygen).47 Furthermore, a recent study in cultured liver cancer cells48 showed that chlorophyllin was one of the most potent inducers of a set of enzymes that protect the cells against potentially harmful oxidants and electrophiles, two types of unstable molecules that damage tissues and contribute to cancer.49,50

One way free radicals cause damage to cells is through DNA strand breakage. If the DNA has too many strand breakages and/or if the repair mechanisms are insufficient or defective, abnormal cell growth—and ultimately, cancer—can occur as a result.51 Studies show that chlorophyllin plays an important role in reducing this dangerous DNA strand breakage.

In one study, chlorophyllin was found to reduce DNA strand breakage induced by oxidative stress in calf thymus DNA.52 In another study, 18 weeks of chlorophyllin treatment reduced tumor formation and enzyme activity associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in mouse skin treated with a carcinogen, further supporting the link between chlorophyllin’s free-radical fighting and antitumor properties.53

Another way excessive free radicals cause damage is by destroying white blood cells called lymphocytes. Since the job of lymphocytes is to protect your body against cancerous cells and potentially damaging foreign organisms, destroying them reduces your body’s ability to fight cancer.2

Researchers found that injecting chlorophyllin into mice that had undergone whole-body radiation prevented the unnecessary death of these immune system cells by reducing the production of reactive oxygen species in the lymphocytes from their spleen.54

Chlorophyllin’s Anticancer Powers
Chlorophyllin’s Anticancer Powers

Special properties in chlorophyllin’s unique molecular structure allow it to protect vital organs from damage through a variety of mechanisms. Research has shown that chlorophyllin’s anticancer powers include:

  • Complex formation with carcinogens, thereby protecting healthy cells from DNA damage.17,33,34,66
  • Promotion of healthy cell growth by supporting the destruction and “clean-up” of cancerous cells, preventing them from spreading throughout the body and damaging vital organs.36,40,45
  • Ability to scavenge various free radicals, highly reactive molecules that cause the oxidative damage that is associated with cancer development.31,47,52,54
  • Photosensitive properties that may make it a valuable therapeutic option for treating certain cancers through photodynamic therapy.60,61
  • Potential ability to treat leukopenia, a symptom of some cancers and common side effect of cancer treatment.62
  • Improvements in the efficacy of the cancer drug oxaliplatin in cell culture, even in drug-resistant cancer cells.65

Photosensitizing Effects Of Chlorophyllin

Photodynamic therapy is an exciting new cancer treatment typically used for small, local tumors55 on or just under the skin, or on the lining of internal organs and cavities, such as the bladder.56-58 The therapy involves injecting into the bloodstream an agent called a photosensitizer, which is sensitive to a particular type and wavelength of light.57

Although the photosensitizer is absorbed by both normal and cancerous cells, it stays in cancer cells longer than in normal cells. Exposing the tumor to light about 24 to 72 hours after injection will preferentially destroy tumor cells and minimize exposure to normal cells.57,59

Recent research suggests that the remarkable photosensitizing properties of chlorophyllin make it a low-cost option for this novel therapy. In two studies, scientists recently synthesized two forms of chlorophyllin called chlorophyllin e4 and chlorophyllin f and discovered that using these forms in photodynamic therapy increased the death of human bladder cancer cells in cell culture.60,61 Further research from these scientists showed that using photodynamic therapy with chlorophyllin f in two types of cultured human bladder cancer cells induced the death of approximately 85% of the cancer cells.60,61

Leukopenia (low white blood cell count) is a symptom of some types of cancer, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and may be an undesired side effect of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Because white blood cells are critical for immune function, leukopenia weakens the immune system and makes the body vulnerable to infection and illness.62,63

One study indicated that chlorophyllin might help treat leukopenia and thereby help maintain immune system function. For the study, researchers gave three 40 mg sodium copper chlorophyllin tablets per day for one month to patients with leukopenia caused by various factors. The chlorophyllin was effective in treating 85% of patients and was significantly more effective than placebo tablets and similar to Leucogen® tablets, a drug sometimes used to treat leukopenia.62

Chlorophyllin: An Explanation
Chlorophyllin’s Anticancer Powers

What Is Chlorophyllin?

  • Chlorophyllin is a semi-synthetic mixture of sodium copper salts derived from chlorophyll,31 the naturally occurring green pigment that gives plants and algae their color and helps plants trap light needed for photosynthesis.

What Is The Difference Between Chlorophyll And Chlorophyllin?

  • Although both chlorophyll and chlorophyllin have a ring-like structure, chlorophyll has a magnesium molecule at the center of the ring and a chain of carbon and hydrogen molecules.67 Chlorophyllin typically has copper at the center of its ring and does not have the chain of carbon and hydrogen molecules.68
  • Because chlorophyllin does not have this carbon/hydrogen chain, it is soluble (dissolves easily) in water, whereas chlorophyll is soluble in fat and insoluble in water.
  • The slight variations in molecular structure may allow chlorophyllin to bind particularly effectively with certain carcinogenic molecules and heterocyclic amines.16,17,69-71 Interestingly, chlorophyllin inhibits the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, benzopyrene, indirectly without binding to the carcinogen.16

What Else Is Chlorophyllin Used For Besides Cancer Prevention/Treatment?

  • Chlorophyllin has been used for over 50 years to reduce fecal72-74 and urinary75 odors.
  • According to uncontrolled studies in the 1940s and 1950s,76,77 it can promote healing of inflamed open wounds due to its antimicrobial properties.
  • More recently, chlorophyllin has also been used as an environmentally friendly way to decontaminate food surfaces78,79 and extend shelf life of food such as strawberries.80

Chlorophyllin Assists In Cancer Treatment

Another benefit of chlorophyllin is its ability to boost the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

Oxaliplatin is a moderately effective anticancer drug, although its unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and nerve damage, may limit a person’s ability to take the drug long term.64 Additionally, some tumors are resistant to the drug, limiting its effectiveness in combating the cancer.65

However, one study indicated that administering chlorophyllin four hours after oxaliplatin increased the drug’s effectiveness in cultured drug-resistant and nonresistant human ovarian cancer cell lines.65 Although these effects have yet to be tested in humans, these results support chlorophyllin’s potential, not only in protecting the body against cancer-causing agents, but also as a co-therapeutic agent for cancer drug treatment.


Researchers estimate that lifestyle and environmental factors may contribute to approximately 90% of cancer cases. These carcinogens damage DNA and can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. Unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to avoid environmental carcinogens—but what you can avoid is their harmful impact on your body.

Chlorophyllin’s unique molecular structure allows it to act as an interceptor molecule that binds to the harmful carcinogens and excretes them from the body before they can damage your DNA.

In addition, chlorophyllin has been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, reduce excessive oxidative damage that can lead to cancer, support the immune system, and boost the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

Chlorophyllin’s ability to bind to carcinogens and excrete them from the body before causing DNA damage makes it a safe and low-cost way of protecting against unavoidable environmental carcinogens.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialists at 1-866-864-3027.

Editor's Note

Science continues to evolve, and new research is published daily. As such, we have a more recent article on this topic: Protect Against DNA Damage


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