In Brazil many health disorders are treated with the consumption of different varieties of tea. Shell extracts of pecan nut (Carya illinoinensis), which have significant amounts of phenolic compounds in their composition, are popularly taken as tea to prevent diverse pathologies. Phenolic compounds from pecan nut shell extract have been associated with diverse biological effects but the effect on tumor cells has not been reported yet. The aim of the current work was to evaluate the relationship between DNA fragmentation, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis induced by pecan nut shell extract and its antitumor activity. Cytotoxicity, proliferation, cell death and cell cycle were evaluated in MCF-7 cells by MTT, colony assay, differential coloring and flow cytometry assays, respectively. DNA damage effects were evaluated through intercalation into CT-DNA and plasmid DNA cleavage. Tumor growth inhibition, survival time increase, apoptosis and cell cycle arrest were assessed in Ehrlich ascites tumor in Balb/C mice. The cytotoxic effect of pecan nut shell extracts, the induction of cell death by apoptosis and also the cell cycle arrest in MCF-7 cells have been demonstrated. The survival time in mice with Ehrlich ascites tumor increased by 67%. DNA damage was observed in the CT-DNA, plasmid DNA and comet assays. The mechanism involved in the antitumor effect of pecan nut shell extracts may be related to the activation of key proteins involved in apoptosis cell death (Bcl-XL, Bax and p53) and on the cell cycle regulation (cyclin A, cyclin B and CDK2). These results were attributed to the phenolic profile of the extract, which presented compounds such as gallic, 4-hydroxybenzoic, chlorogenic, vanillic, caffeic and ellagic acid, and catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin and epicatechin gallate. The results indicated that pecan nut shell extracts are effective against tumor cells growth and may be considered as an alternative to the treatment of cancer. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.